Tag Archives: check-in

Are Canadians Checking In?

There is no doubt about it, if you follow the online local space that Check-In is “In” for 2010. A recent article on Mashable, “Foursquare’s Growth Not Slowing Down: 725,000 Users, 22 Million Checkins” definitely proves the point for this 1-year old startup organization.

In February I did a post on my FourSquare experience that you can read on my initial experiences and the impact on local.

A couple of days, one of my work colleagues, Mohamed Kahlain, follow him on Twitter, sent me the link to CheckIn Mania, a mashup that features checkins from FourSquare, GoWalla and Britekite. This was originally posted on Mashable.

In a nutshell what CheckIn Mania does is allows you to enter any city, click on the map and select a business. Once you select a business you can see who is the mayor of that place + how many checkins to that business and any tips. You also have the ability to select the “Search by Map” which is a neat feature that allows you to move the map and the locations update as opposed to updating the locations by click.

Here is the screenshot with one of my favorite restaurants (of which I am in the Mayor in Calgary) called Spicy Hut.

Check In Mania for Calgary and Spicy Hut

It is no secret that any of the location based services listed above have the highest penetration in major US markets like San Francisco and New York, but what about Canada?

Are Canadians checking in?

So I decided to spot check some businesses in Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto and Montreal to see how active Canadian’s are. I decided to focus on Restaurants. My selection criteria for which restaurants and spas to choose was as following, In Google I did a local search and selected business #3 in their 7-pack. In YellowPages.ca, I selected the #8 business and in Yelp.ca I selected business #6. This would give me a random sample of businesses. I also limited this to FourSquare as this is the most popular check-in service.

Here are my findings.

Vancouver Restaurants:
C Restaurant (selected from Google) – 9 checkins
Tojo’s Restaurant (selected from Yelp) – 33 checkins
Top Of Vancouver Revolving Restaurant (selected from Yellowpages.ca) – 17 checkins

Calgary Restaurants
Calgary Marriott Hotel (selected from Google) – 21 checkins
Capo Restaurant (selected from Yelp) – 5 checkins
Karma Fine Indian Cuisine (selected from YellowPages.ca) – 2 checkins

Toronto Restaurants
Bistro 990 Restaurant (selected from Google, this is actually listing #4) – 11 checkins
Pomegranate Restaurant (selected from Yelp) – 8 checkins
The Real Jerk (selected from YellowPages.ca) – 34 checkins

Montreal Restaurants
Restaurant Toqué (selected from Google) – 5 checkins
Santos (selected from Yelp, actually #8) – 40 checkins
Arahova Souvlaki (selected from YellowPages.ca) – 15 checksin

The only thing that surprised me about the above results is Toronto. I would have expected to Toronto to come in closer to Montreal in terms of checkins because of population concentration and smartphone penetration. However, this might be a result of the fact that Toronto does not have the density of Montreal (land mass to population size), which might also explain why Vancouver is more comparative to Montreal. Calgary actually holds it own, relative to its population size and the fact that Calgary.

Although comparatively to the US, Canada is not at the 1/10 rule (see some US results below), it is pretty clear to me that Canadians in the large urban markets have started to embrace checkin. This group, like in the US, are the ones at the start of the product curve and the big question going forward is whether checkin services will hit mass adoption.

How does this compare to the top US cities. Here are the results for San Francisco and New York using the same process as above. I used YellowPages.com as the 3rd source.

San Francisco Restaurants
Zuni Cafe (selected from Google) – 459 checkins
R & G Lounge (selected from Yelp) – 296 checkins
Cote Sud (selected from YellowPages.com) – 6 checkins

New York Restaurants
Spring Street Natural Restaurant (selected from Google) – 495 checkins
La Sirene (selected from Yelp) – 52 checksin
Serendipity 3 (selected from YellowPages.com) – 236 checkins

My FourSquare Experience

I am little behind on my blog posts, lots of travelling for Yellow Pages Group in the past few weeks, but I have been meaning to post some thoughts regarding my usage of FourSquare. For anybody who has connected with me on twitter account, @darbysieben you probably have noticed that I have been all over foursquare lately.

For those of you who are not familiar with FourSquare – here is the summary:

– Get an account and install FourSquare on your phone – you need a smart phone (here is the link to foursquare in iTunes)
– When you visit a place, you simply open the application on your phone and “Check-In”. This will broadcast to your FourSquare friends (or Twitter and Facebook if you choose) that you have “Checked-In”
– You collect points for check-ins, providing tips or entering new locations and if you check in enough times in a location you become the mayor, some businesses will provide incentives for being the mayor
– You collect badges based on a variety of types of checkins. Here is my list of badges (my wife was joking with me that she outgrew badges in Brownies)

Personally, I think FourSquare is an interesting concept with respect to the “gaming” concept by using location as a way to compete with friends through points, badges or mayorship, the ability to discovery new venues and as a way to record your movements to broadcast to your friends.

In a nutshell – fun, discovery and ego massaging.

When I was in Hawaii at the end of January, I first experienced the concept of using FourSquare as discovery. Check out the screenshots below when I checked in to the Apple Store in Waikiki:

FourSquare Apple Store Waikiki

You will notice the “Special Nearby” green icon at the top. I suspect this is generating a massive amount of click throughs and as you see below when you click through, I was presented a 10% of at Doraku Sushi.

FourSquare Doraku Sushi

This concept is pretty cool from a user discovery perspective – it can lead a user to potentially check out a new venue based on an offer. This has interesting implications for local businesses.

Because I broadcasted my locations to my friends on Facebook and Twitter, people were commenting and telling us about places to check out. It was interesting to see people from all over the world give us advise on our trip. This was a pretty cool and another great example of discovery, this time through my social network.

Data Problem With User Generated Content in FourSquare

After using FourSquare for the past month there are some problems with data in this application from a user perspective that I believe need to be addressed to move the concept of check-in into the mainstream.

Nothing is more frustrating that wanting to check in to a location and the location is not recognized in the database. This happen to me in the US and in Canada. Although a user can add a location and get 5 points, I am not sure this is a mainstream approach. I would identify data the source of verified data and still allow a user to enter a new location, but when it is a business that has been there for years, it seems like a unnecessary layer of friction. I would also allow users to enter information inside the merchant page for the business. I have missed a number of check-ins because of lack of data in the FourSquare database.

The other thing I have noticed about FourSquare UG content is that some people are entering locations multiple times – likely so that they can become the mayor of that location. This is frustrating as well. For example most Airports I have passed through have multiple entries. There needs to be some data cleansing or monitoring.

If FourSquare does not address the data issue, I think this could result in them losing their advantage in the long-run. Although Mavens, as described by Malcomn Gladwell in his book The Tipping Point, will get you usage early, you need the masses to make a long-term sustainable business. The check-in concept is likely to be commoditized and I think data accuracy combined with smart UG content will be a key driver to who wins this space.

For Local Businesses

In the short-run, for any local business that has already starting leveraging social media – make sure you location is accurate within the FourSquare database. Second – provide an incentive for your “mayor”. Here are some examples of what companies are doing for their mayors.

Many people are talking online that check-ins will become commoditized and I think you will see major players around the globe will move into this space. If they do, there is a distribution play for local businesses based on the promotion of special offers, enhanced content (reviews, videos, photos) etc. The key for local businesses at this point is to digitize their content for the web and mobile and then distribute.

The problem with my Doraki Sushi example above was that my interest was peaked – 10% off Sushi (I like Sushi) but I wanted more information that simply a name and an offer. Show me pictures, give me a video, perhaps a menu in the case of a business – give me (the user) more information.

I think there is a synergy between users and businesses in this example. Users will want more information to help in making a decision and businesses want more opportunities to present why you should visit them. Provided the user experience is one that the user selects as opposed to be forced, then I think you have a winning combination that satisfies all parties

Privacy

The privacy issue is an interesting one. Many of my friends or my wife’s friends are horrified about the fact that I would broadcast my location. There are privacy implications here. When I was in Hawaii, it did cross my mind that I am broadcasting to the world that I am not home (however, I then realized I am not that important and I doubt there is a person out there who is waiting for me to leave my house to rob).

Check out PleaseRobMe.com – a site that broadcasts people in who have left their home – so maybe I need to be more concerned.

A THOUGHT: I wonder if an insurance company will challenge somebody who gets broken into as “irresponsible” if they broadcasted that they were not home and this promoted somebody to break into their house.

I don’t think the issue lies with FourSquare or any of the players who release a check-in service – this is opt in – but users need to understand what this means. You are telling your friends, co-workers, insurance company, potential people that want to harm you, etc. where you are and what does that means for you. This could have negative impacts.

My Conclusions

Check-In Service will become more popular and will be incorporated in many applications and eventually become commoditized.

Users will want a combination of accurate data + the ability to provide user generated content. They want control to contribute but I think it will go beyond just providing name/address information.

Users will want more information in the discovery process. They love the deal, but give them more content – videos, photos, menus, reviews, etc. – let the user go deeper in the discovery mode for local businesses from a check-in.

Local Businesses need to embrace digitization of their content and the management of that content. Check-in will become a distribution point.

Commercial real estate prices will increase because many people are checking into a particular area, location, location, location. This is probably not true but I wonder if social media could help in further articulating why one commercial location has a higher value than another – could check-ins become a supporting metric for foot traffic?

What Do You Think?

Is there a future for check-in?

Do you think users will want more information about a local business?

Do you think local businesses will embrace and provide offers?

Do you broadcast your location?

If you want more interesting reading on FourSquare, check out the following posts:

FourSquare and Geo-Games: The Future of Local?

Dennis Crowley (Foursquare): Check-ins Will Be “Commodity by the End of the Year.”