Smart phone users experience many benefits by virtue of being digitally connected. When using mobile while spending the morning shopping with friends, getting a bite of lunch with family, then treating yourself to an indulgent treatment at the spa before opening night with the spouse, users can:

  • Redeem coupons sent by email or text
  • Compare product pricing among merchants and a retailer’s online shop
  • Use secure, cashless payment systems like Dwolla
  • Track meal points, look up calorie counts, and search for a vegan or gluten-free restaurant
  • Get directions and schedule appointments
  • Post photos and tips on social networks in real time
  • Buy tickets, text the baby sitter, and call for a taxi

Another often considered media for the smart phone are geolocation apps like Foursquare, Scvngr, and Gowolla. For users, these apps primarily serve as a form of entertainment through the earning of badges and progressive status achievements and the interactivity among connected friends. However, brands are increasingly finding ways to tap into the small but growing segment of online Americans who use check-in services which Pew reported to be 4% in 2010.  The study went on to explain Americans age 18-29 represent the highest demographic and somewhat surprisingly, 10% of those who use location-based services are Hispanic. Men outnumber women 2-to-1 in their check-in activity.

Card merchants like American Express are forging deals with apps like Foursquare to sweeten the participation pot. By combining gamification with spending, card merchants along with retail and personal services providers can take advantage of our culture’s growing deal-seeking, information-sharing trends.

Mobile marketing

Cardmembers can find exclusive specials on Foursquare when they connect their AmEx card to their Foursquare account. After synching them up, everyday check-ins can bring bigger perks in the form of unlocked specials which are credited back to corresponding expenditures on the card. Who wouldn’t want to tout their latest to-die-for shoe purchase to their friends?

For AmEx, the result is increased spending in the form of unplanned purchases, higher receipt values, and opportunistic transactions. In other words, once your account is synched and you check in your favorite clothing store as usual, you may be tempted to buy something you hadn’t planned on or buy more in order to take advantage of the special. Or you just may use your AmEx to buy the item (to earn the special) when you otherwise might have used your debit card.  In a test run earlier this year, AmEx reports a 20% increase in spending among those participating in the program than those who did not.

But what if your restaurant, shop, or venue doesn’t accept American Express? How can you benefit from the mobile, tech-savvy market?  Here are some low-fi ways to experiment:

  • Set your store/restaurant/salon up on Foursquare. Post notices from your Twitter and Facebook account to let customers know they can now check-in each time they visit you.
  • Put simple signage up inside the store. Be sure to communicate a benefit to check-in like periodic deals, perks for achieving certain status, etc.

What else might you do to capitalize on the geo-location craze?