TechCrunch Social Currency CrunchUp: PlacePop Launches Loyalty Card App, More Companies Look at Transactions

Today at TechCrunch’s CrunchUp conference, PlacePop officially launched its loyalty card iPhone app and social service. Instead of businesses offering deals to customers checking in to a centralized location-based service, users check-in directly to a business’ custom PlacePop loyalty card, digitally punching the card, earning rewards, and sharing their actions.

It’s a new example of companies trying to tap into social connections — on Facebook or elsewhere — to connect businesses with customers, and customers with deals.

The conference also featured Twitter discussing their GroupOn-like Earlybird deals, and FourSquare talking about the future of transaction-intiated check-ins. The trend  of the conference shows that social companies see monetization potential in helping businesses not only increase awareness and connect with fans, but in directly facilitating sales.

PlacePop allows business owners to quickly convert an existing loyalty program or create a new one, and have total control over the rewards they offer. Users toggle a switch on each card to share their actions, and can also share photos of their favorite businesses, which PlacePop saw Facebook and Twitter users doing frequently.

The PlacePop website uses Facebook for login, and makes it easy to share your affinity for places you’re loyal to. A PlacePop tab for Facebook Pages could create a powerful link between a business’ communication with customers and efforts to encourage them to visit. Investors see potential too, with PlacePop securing $1.4 million in funding from Ooga Labs cofounders James Currier and Stan Chudnovsky, Affinity Labs Founder Chris Michel, and Bebo Founder Michael Birch.

Twitter launched Twitter.com/Earlybird in early July after analyzing existing promotions run on Twitter and learning what worked best. It seeks to run promotions that stimulate conversation, like their 20% off deal with JetBlue which got users tweeting where they were flying to, broadcasting the deal to their own networks. Earlybird could become a significant moneymaker for Twitter, especially if they give the account representation on the home page.

FourSquare explained that moving check-ins to the point of transaction, instead of when a user visits a business, is core to their future. Its integration with frozen yogurt vendor Tasti D-Lite, which allows users to enable auto-checkin when they use their physical loyalty card to make a purchase has been a success, and they’re considering how to scale it to other businesses. FourSquare’s head of biz dev Tristan Walker admits that they don’t have the staff to help the thousands of companies who request to run promotions each day. This leaves room for loyalty programs like PlacePop where owners run promotions independently.