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4 Ways to Work Check-ins into Your Marketing Mix

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by: Loren McDonald (@LorenMcDonald)
09 November 2011

In today's mobile, multichannel world, it's more important than ever to be where your customers are. And increasingly, that means on smartphones and tablets, where more and more people are checking in at retail locations or business events. Foursquare, for example, is adding a million customers a month, and a recent Digital Omnivores report indicated that in the last month nearly half of tablet users shared their location using a location-sharing site.

For marketers, location-based check-ins offer an opportunity to deliver astonishingly relevant messages that engage customers and prospects based on where they are, build loyalty and drive revenue. And they also present exciting opportunities to integrate with other channels such as email and Twitter.

What Are Check-ins?
Check-ins are location-based sharing via mobile device, performed most frequently via Foursquare and Facebook Places. Once users "check in," their location is broadcast to friends in their network (if they so choose), and the user can view tips, offers and other information about nearby places.

For users, check-ins provide a new social outlet as well as a chance to gather valuable information about the location and, in some cases, special offers. For marketers, they offer a valuable opportunity to reach customers in the real world, gather data and increase brand awareness.

For example, let's say there's one user that checks in to a downtown fast-food restaurant for lunch four times a week, and another that checks in to an upscale bistro on the weekend. These check-ins tell you volumes about their lifestyle and what services or goods they might want, helping you to tailor your marketing.

There's also a distinct social aspect to check-ins, with people sharing tips and leaving reviews for their friends to read. For businesses, that means that adopting location-based marketing has the added benefit of having customers do some of the marketing on behalf of the location, adding a human voice that even your best promotional copy will have trouble matching.

For digital marketers, there are many different ways to work check-ins into your messaging mix, but here are four that clients have found particularly effective:

1) SWEEPSTAKES
What They Are:
Prizes based on when or how often someone checks in to a location with Foursquare or Facebook.

How They Work: Participants opt in to the sweepstakes using their Foursquare or Facebook accounts, and then your marketing platform confirms their sign-up with an automated email confirmation. Participants then check in via Foursquare and/or Facebook, and you monitor the results and select a winner based on the check-in criteria you've established.

Benefits: Creates excitement around your brand, increases store and venue/event traffic, provides new opportunities to grow your email list.

Real-life Success Story: A retail client used a sweepstakes to drive 11,000 check-ins over a four-week period. And here at Silverpop, we offered a $100 American Express gift card for Agent ROI attendees who checked-in--and notched a 40 percent participation rate.

2) LOYALTY PROGRAM
What It Is:
Campaign that rewards customers for signing up and checking in to your locations using Foursquare or Facebook.

How It Works: Generally, participants will receive a reward at sign-up (e.g. "10% off next purchase" or "Free latte") and then will receive rewards at various intervals. For example, a free drink for the third check-in, a free sandwich for the fifth check-in and a free meal for check-in No. 10.

Benefits: Boosts store traffic, increases engagement and loyalty, provides valuable data on your most frequent customers that you can use to more strongly engage them.

Real-life Success Story: A retail brand utilized a loyalty program to successfully drive more than 10,000 check-ins in its first month.

3) LOCAL OFFERS
What They Are:
Special offers delivered to people when they check in nearby your locations.

How It Works: You set up a radius around a location and the offer you want delivered, and when someone checks in within that radius, they automatically receive the offer via email.

Benefits: Drives store traffic, builds brand awareness, keeps your brand top-of-mind

Real-life Success: Several restaurants have seen redemption rates between 5 percent and 15 percent.

4) TWITTER MESSAGING
What It Is:
An automated or manual reply to guests via Twitter.

How It Works: You connect your Twitter account to your marketing platform. When someone shares his or her Foursquare check-in with friends on Twitter, your marketing platform tells your Twitter account to send a personalized response. Examples might include, "@LorenMcDonald Thanks for visiting! Let us know how your experience was" or "@LorenMcDonald Thanks for visiting! Want to receive future deals? Sign up for our emails here: ow.ly/signup."

Benefits: Additional customer touch point, be where your customers are, expand message reach.

Real-life Success: Clients have seen a 30 percent click-through rate on Tweets sent to guests that check-in at brand-owned stores.

In addition to these examples, check-ins can also be used to drive email sign-ups, facilitate customer service, increase product awareness and much more. Regardless of how you use check-ins, knowing where your customers and prospects are at a specific time presents unique opportunities to deliver highly personalized, relevant content, so savvy marketers should make sure they're setting time aside to strategize about how you can incorporate location-based campaigns into an integrated, multichannel marketing strategy.

Interested in learning more about check-ins? Read about Silverpop’s acquisition of location-based marketing platform PlacePunch, and download our Agent ROI presentation, “Follow Them! Location-Based Marketing Tips and Techniques.”

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