Facebook Places launches a new aspect to their mobile experience for users in the UK today – the opportunity to save money and use special offers by ‘checking in’ to Facebook on your mobile when shopping on the high street.
Designed as a natural extension to how users are already using Facebook Places, the social giant is now adding an incentive for Facebookers to post their location, by offering discounts and vouchers from third party companies.
Similar to the FourSquare template, customers log in to their Facebook profile, telling the world they’re visiting Yo Sushi, Debenhams or Starbucks for example (all verified participants in the scheme), and are rewarded with a kind of virtual loyalty card or coupon. Other British participants include: Mazda, O2, Alton Towers and Benetton, with more likely to follow.
Emily White, spokeswoman for Facebook Places, explained how over 200 million users are already posting their location from their mobiles with no incentive, and the new addition to the service creates, a “chance for businesses to be part of the conversation” and the “opportunity for users to find even more value from Facebook on their mobile phone”. Facebook is not apparently taking a cut from the affiliations, asserting that it’s really just about a “killer user experience”.
Deals available to Places app users also include “golden ticket” rewards and bonuses for users who bring their friends, as well as the chance to help charities – for example, every check-in to Argos automatically donates £1 by the company to the Teenage Cancer Trust.
Speculation, of course, surrounds the potential threat to similar loyalty-scheme-based companies: FourSquare, Groupon, Living Social and Quidco to name just a few. White assured that these companies are “not in the line of fire”, that businesses like Groupon are have a different focus to the service Facebook Deals offers. Groupon in particular, she says, is more about discovering new products and companies, whereas Facebook Places is about “presenting offers in places you’re already going to”. True enough with regard to Groupon, or Living Social, but what about the others? Is it a coincidence that Quidco recently launched the option of registering your credit/debit card with your account so that you receive points every time you use it on the high street? As we’ve looked at previously – mobile marketing is certainly the future of commerce, but is it likely to be monopolised by Facebook right off the bat?
From a customer point of view, things seem pretty sweet (unless you’re especially paranoid about the social fat cats/government/martians tracking your every move of course), and with Facebook offering the service for free to participating businesses, the flipside appears to be beneficial as well. So far the scheme is only open to the big guys, though over time Facebook hope to be able to include small businesses as well.
Facebook’s stake in this seems to lie in an increased dependence on the network by its users (we suggest the following tagline: Facebook – more addictive than crack!), with incentives to use the platform for every on- and off-line movement and purchase. Facebook also hopes that advertisers will be encouraged to invest in even more lucrative deals with the social network to assist with physical as well as virtual traffic to their shops.
Will the new incentives entice you get connected? Are you already using Facebook Places? Or are you a die-hard Groupon/Quidco fan? Discuss.
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