Checking in at #SMX! The Whys & Hows Behind Mobile Check-ins

Restaurant on Yelp

Girl with cell phoneContinuing with our coverage of Day 1 at SMX West, and after some tasty conference lunch & AIMCLEAR cake, attendees following along the Local and Mobile track caught Doing Check-ins and Offers Right with moderator Greg Sterling and speakers Rodney Hess, Account Manager at Search Influence, Daniel Lemin, Brand Consultant at Social Studio, Conrad Saam, Director of Marketing at Urbanspoon and Kate Salyers, Social Media and Digital Strategist for Towne Properties.

Starting off the session, Kate took the stage and discussed why it’s so important for brands to be on mobile check-in platforms such as Foursquare and Yelp. Most brands approach the prospect of creating a new social platform where they must “check in” with caution – they want to know, “What’s in it for me?”

Aside from attracting new customers, having the ability to reward your best customers, and creating specials, brands can provide valuable information as well as tips to their online communities. If you personally don’t use check-in services, your customers should, Kate recommended.

Many companies don’t think to offer tips or suggestions and embrace truly undervalued but great idea. Enticing potential customers by checking in at local venues surrounding the company or location with a piece of information that will make them remember you, for example, a unique discount or drink special- inspired! Your audience will see that you are trying to help them explore the city, and they can have a positive experience because of it. Keep reading for more awesome takeaways and top-shelf advice on mobile check-ins!

Why should I be a part of these channels? Kate describes a few key statistics which make checking in a valuable strategy for increasing brand awareness.

  • Smartphone sales are continuing to increase at a fast rate
  • Customers really are out there
  • Check-in platforms integrate well with Facebook and Twitter

Since a lot of people naturally vent about poor experiences to friends, one thing brands should always be aware of is negative reviews. Be proactive and respond to them when they arise. There may be customers out there reviewing you and you wouldn’t know about it if you weren’t on Foursquare or Yelp. You don’t want to be kept in the dark now, do you?

The LBS (Location Cased Services) Process

  1. Identify your goal
  2. Set up
  3. Establish
  4. Review

Once you’ve accomplished these goals, you will have a new process in place for ongoing management of your check-in channels.

  1. Monitor
  2. Reply
  3. Adjust
  4. Repeat

This lets your community know that you are watching for what they’re saying and that you care. One of the worst possible brand experiences could be when a customer negatively rates a company and then hears crickets. By not hearing from the brand, their negative response will only be reinforced.

Restaurant on Yelp

We all know that mobile check-in channels can be fully integrated with other social media channels. But what exactly does this allow you to do? These channels allow users to share on Facebook and Twitter as well as share with Yelp and Foursquare friends.

SEO-wise, what value does this provide? The reviews and check-ins you receive can offer SEO value since both venues and reviews can help your rank.

The one most important thing Kate says brands need to remember is to be aware of what people are saying about them online.

Next up, Conrad took to the podium to discuss the most expensive issue restaurants often face: an empty seat. They want to fill these seats on Tuesday and Wednesday night when they’re least busy, but how can they entice people to go out on these unpopular dining out weekdays?

Conrad walked us though a variety of companies that have tried and failed at offering a maintainable offer program. First up was OpenTable.

Overview of Open Table:

  • Became active in August 2010 in New York and Boston
  • Offered $25 coupon for $50 worth of a meal
  • Sent a notification via email
  • Reservations were required
  • Limit of 1 deal per week
  • Conditional deal (i.e. finite number of deals available for a given time period)
  • Provided a printed coupon which the customer should take to the restaurant

OpenTable added additional cities in the next quarter. In the beginning of 2011, they launched deals in London and Minneapolis. As they added new cities, they were able to aggressively add interest, but then it waned quickly in terms of numbers sold and numbers sold per offer. People got fed up with the email deals and stopped paying attention to them. By November of 2011, they had canceled the program.

This tells us it was not working and actually costing them a lot of money. Why did they pull the plug? OpenTable does well with fine dining establishments, but most people don’t want to walk into a nice restaurant with a coupon.

Next up, Seattle Perks. Why did it fail? Because there was no coupon, it was extremely difficult to achieve fulfillment of the offer. Oftentimes, servers had never heard of the deal or didn’t know whether they could trust it, resulting in awful user experiences and in embarrassment for both the diner and the restaurant.

Pirq – what is it? Here’s an overview. It went live in June 2011 in Seattle and was created by James Sun.

  • Offered real time mobile deals and was location-based
  • Provided customized deals – 20-50% off
  • It was free!
  • On location check-in

Pirq offered a commit button, but it meant absolutely nothing. It made the user feel like they should go to the restaurant, but they weren’t committed to it because they didn’t actually pay for anything.

Finally, we come to Savored, which is actually doing really well. Here’s what they do:

  • They offer $10 for 30% off
  • They generate $2 million per month at restaurants

Savored is doing well because it took all the problems encountered by preceeding companies and fixed them. Pretty simple 🙂 .

When Rodney took to the stage, he offered up a few general statistics for the audience to ponder:

  • At least 20 million smart phone owners have check in apps on their phones (this does not include Facebook Places)
  • Foursquare continues its trend of astronomical growth

Rodney described a case study in which he tried to increase brand awareness for a local bar in New Orleans. The goals of the project were to create Facebook ads to targeted demographics (friends of people who like the bar), construct unique landing pages with links to their social media channels and check in sites, increase social interaction (used creative Facebook posts to spur likes and comments), and to increase revenue. They did this by promoting the bar’s slowest nights with great specials, offering up to 50% off a bottle of wine if you check in.

Help! What’s wrong with Yelp?
Rodney mentioned how Yelp does not provide weekly, monthly, or yearly data unless you’re an advertiser. Since all of the other social media channels can offer this, Yelp is far behind in the game and pretty severely lacking in appeal to some brands who want to be able to track this data.

So what good came from Yelp in this case? There were 25 check-ins for the time period and 215 mobile views.

While Rodney’s team was offering the check-in offers, Foursquare experienced the highest number of check-ins during this time. But what else was accomplished?

  • There was a 150% increase in unique visitors
  • A 32% increase in new visitors
  • 22 visitors unlocked 10% off their bar tab
  • 13 visitors unlocked 50% off bottles of wine.

In Facebook, there was originally an average of 98 likes per month, but by the time they finished their campaign, there was a 118% increase in the monthly average of likes.

The former slowest night of the week for this bar, Wednesday, went from one server per night to 2 and a 167-200% increase in revenue.

Daniel Lemin was up next to offer a few questions that all brands should ask themselves when considering offering deals to their customers:

  • Are you marketing to new or existing customers?
  • Can you afford the deal you are considering?
  • Can you ensure a high quality deal delivery?
  • What will you do with this new exposure?
  • What is the lifetime value of your average customer?

Ensuring there is a good quality redemption process is of the utmost importance. Set the deal up in a way that works for both you and the vendor.

How can you get the most out of the sale?
Daniel recommended cross promotion redemptions in which you should encourage social signals for search, create an email list sign up, and encourage ratings and reviews in documentation.

If you’re not going to utilize these social check-in sites, there are a few alternatives Daniel mentioned, including distributing email deals via your own address book or list, providing PPC coupons, and coupon codes with specific days when appropriate.

With that, the speakers wrapped up. To keep in the spirit of all things mobile check-in-related, the AIMCLEAR team headed to Restaurante Monte Alban at the suggestion of Yelp’s 5-star rating! It was a delicious meal and a true testament to the ratings and reviews system provided by other users.

Be sure to keep following along for more live tweets, blog coverage, and if you’re at the show, remember to check out

Sign Up For Our Newsletter

Stay Connected