I'm currently sitting in an event in Boston called GeoM2, an afternoon of panels discussing the future of location-based marketing. It struck me that there are lots of players in this space focusing on a moment in time - the check-in, the conversion, the experience. So many LBS services are in fact focused on the offer - if you are in the neighborhood, come get some nachos. The offer is valuable, certainly, but from a retail strategy standpoint, what's the point of the offer? For Groupon, the offer is typically geared towards trial. For Foursquare, it's loyalty. In all cases, however, the offer might change over time, but the view of the consumer is static.
Consumers aren't static, however. Though the layers have gotten more complicated, the sales funnel hasn't gone away. Brands still need to migrate consumers through the great circle of marketing life - Awareness, Trial, Churn, and Satisfaction/Loyalty. All roads lead to one of these four places: as trial becomes loyalty becomes evangelism, that evangelism creates new awareness, and the circle moves ever on and on. Shouldn't my "offers" reflect my changing place on that great wheel?
If I've had one prior check-in, I've already had trial, so my offers should naturally migrate to loyalty/repeat business incentives. If I check in five more times within a certain period, I should get that offer - mayor or no. And If I check in a lot, it's time for that business to start treating me like a brand ambassador, and not as a mere upsell opportunity. For example, I have coffee at the same place in Carrboro, NC, every day I am in town (Jessee's, btw - best beans in town!) I check in every time. I will never become the mayor. But I have a deep relationship with Jessee's. Trial-oriented offers aren't right for me. And they've already got my loyalty - the metric tonnage of my prior check-ins can establish that. Now what they should be encouraging is evangelism. My "offers" should revolve around my introducing someone new to Jessee's, and checking in with them together. That's a relationship you can't assume from the first check-in, but it isn't rocket surgery to get there from the data I am already providing Jessee's.
This truly consumer-centric model for LBS should also translate to the actual products and services being offered themselves. I check-in to The Franklin Hotel lobby bar from time to time. Their long-running, never changing Groupon offer is for a cheese plate. I don't want a cheese plate. When I check-in, I want an offer tailored to my previous purchase history (which is, without fail, a Plymouth Martini, up with a twist.)
How would The Franklin know that they should offer me a Plymouth Martini? From modeling my place on the great circle of marketing life, of course. If I have checked in ten times at The Franklin over a few months, chances are I'd be responsive to the 10th check-in just flat out asking me: what's your drink? After all, collected profile data online is exactly like dating someone. If I've gone out with you ten times, chances are I'll let you get to second base. Just sayin'.
If LBS apps and services expect to hit a home run, they have to do a little more than just buy me dinner.