Foursquare Takes Aim at Retail Chains (Again)

'Local Updates' geo-target offers; H&M and Outback Steakhouse among beta-testers

Foursquare's continues to court retail chains. The company announced today (July 18) a new "Local Updates" feature designed to retailer deliver their customers geo-targeted offers. The marketing tool will roll out later this week after being tested recently by H&M, Wolfgang Puck, Outback Steakhouse and several other location-based brands big and small.

Noah Weiss, Foursquare product manager, said Local Updates should enable retail chains to geo-target specials, coupons or other messages. Theoretically, Weiss said, a national brand like Whole Foods–which runs different promotions regionally–will find the feature useful. Foursquare will start letting businesses capitalize on the enthusiasm of customers who've checked in repeatedly by rolling out a way to message them.

"It gives them a local voice for those stores," Weiss said. "It’s a completely new distribution channel [that can] make people aware of their specials…It’s really flexible. You can do product announcements or show what the menu items are  for the day or what events are coming up this weekend."

Foursquare users who subscribe to receive Local Updates will see messages from nearby businesses in their friend feed. Their location is determined when they open the app and refresh the friend feed. In addition, how often users get served marketing messages largely depends on whether they have checked in to a business multiple times or "liked" the brand on Foursquare.

Over the last 16 months, New York-based Foursquare has looked to cement its place in the shopping ecosystem by rolling out a handful of marketing and analytics-based tools aimed at helping retail chains leverage its geo-social platform. Among other brands, Walgreens and Radio Shack have been avid testers of employing the tools to run national campaigns. Foursquare says it has one million merchants using its smartphone app as a marketing tool.

Meanwhile, Weiss said his company’s recent app revamp has been a hit with consumers, helping Foursquare build on its more than 20 million users. His team enhanced the "Explore" tab to instantly serve a map highlighting top spots nearby, while also adding a Facebook-esque "like" button to venue pages.

"We’ve seen record sign-ups in the last couple of weeks," Weiss said. "We are seeing a higher portion of our user base being active."



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