Following its pivoting re-launch last week, location service Foursquare is once again trying something new, as it has reported been integrated into Cortana, the Windows Phone’s answer to Siri. Its addition now enables window phones carrying Cortana to make customizable, local recommendations based on your location, and presumably, your account history. Such integration fits with the new “local discovery” position that Foursquare took up since its recent update, while also puts it in direct contest with Yelp, which Siri enlists for the same function.
Back in May, Foursquare announced its decision to split its service in two: moving all it’s checking-in and location-sharing functions to a new app Swarm while the Foursquare app set for re-launch as a discovery-focused app. After nearly 3 months, Foursquare is now revealing its refreshed new app, accompanied with a redesigned logo, aiming to shake off the preconceptions about the company. Repositioned as a Yelp-esque local discovery and rating app, the new Foursquare promises a highly personalized discovery experience with its “hyper-contextual recommendations”. This is a turning point for the company for sure, but whether it is a turn for better or for worse still remains to be determined by the mobile users.
In a move that echoes companies like Googe, Foursquare will now charge the heaviest data users for its services. According to Foursquare, only 1% of its 63,000 registered organizations will fall under the “heavy data” bracket. It follows Google Maps’ announcement in February of 2012 to charge heavy users, which prompted Foursquare to move off of Google’s platform in the first place. Foursquare is clearly trying to find its feet, and going forward it remains unclear how they will thrive.
Foursquare is making a fairly drastic shift in approach, splitting its service in two to account for recent developments and checkin’s slow descent. The plan is to split the service into one app, called Swarn, and another app retaining all the familiar Foursquare branding. Swarm will encapsulate the part of the business that lets users broadcast their information to friends and family, allowing people to gather around geo-tagged spots. The traditional Foursquare app will relaunch this summer as a discovery-focused app, designed to provide users with discovery options for new bars, hangout spots, and the like. The latter app is expected to relaunch this summer, and it signals a larger push to maintain the company’s attention to personalization, with the realization that consolidation was necessary around what the app does well itself.
Foursquare will now passively track your location without the need to “check-in,” using the new iOS 7 Refresh capabilities. The development powers Foursquare’s passive notifications which surfaces venue recommendations based on your full location history. The development increases Foursquare location data dramatically. Even the most active Foursquare users wouldn’t come close to sharing 10% of the actual locations they visited.
From an advertising angle, the passive tracking could provide more comprehensive ‘store visit’ data for ROI. Foursquare could be as attractive an analytics platform as a media play as brands could see consumer affinities, displaying which businesses Walmart shoppers also visit, for instance. For the time being, Foursquare is courting advertisers, sharing the updates but have not made any indication that they would integrate these features into their ad products. At least for the time being.
The smart notification system touted by Foursquare earlier this year are finally coming to iOS users today. The notifications are geared to show nearby places that are important to specific users – so if you haven’t checked in at a sports bar, it likely won’t be recommending the hockey-bar a few blocks away. The goal is to make every notification worthwhile, so that users will take care to actually go into the app as opposed to ignoring the notification. Now that it has actually rolled out, we’ll look to see if the update takes hold, and makes check-ins that much more valuable.
Foursquare’s self-service ad platform is now available for all small business, in addition to the limited number of firms to which it has been available since April. Now, any physical commercial venue can pay to have a personalized promotion appear within users’ feeds. Labeled ‘promoted,’ the ads are targeted based on the location of Foursquare users, and whether or not they’re likely to become a customer. To determine the likelihood of becoming a customer, Foursquare assesses whether or not a customer has checked into a venue before, or whether the user has searched for related listenings. On the business side, ad creators will be notified, via a dashboard, about whenever someone views their ad, clicks on it, and walks into the store; Foursquare can offer very real conversion metrics in this way.
Although Foursquare is known for check-ins, the tips its users leave behind in the Explore search and discovery section of the app are rapidly becoming compelling assets for the startup. There are now more than 33 million user-generated tips, which is up 65% from last year – more than Yelp’s soon-to-be-released growth numbers. In addition, the tips on Foursquare are easier to parse as they are embedded seamlessly into its search engine. So although Yelp has reviews that are more curated, the mobile-centric platform lowers the barrier to entry for most users, and the shorter snippets of content seem to be more popular with a broader base of users.
Foursquare released an update to its iOS app with an important new feature: the ability to check-in your friends, but only with their permission. You can check them in, but they’ll have to navigate into the app to approve your check in request. Tapping once to approve a check-in is much less hassle than the original process, and at the same time Foursquare increases the chances of more people checking into more places, exclusively through one click-happy friend who checks in the whole gathering. It’s very easy to see how this could boost check-in numbers across the board, and cold be a widely utilized feature by fans of the app.
In a continued effort to rebrand and expand its offerings, Foursquare has been evolving from a friend-finder to an expansive recommendation engine. Yelp is their foremost competitor, and with that in mind, Foursquare is revamping its online pages to keep pace with the high standard that its mobile apps have set. According to the company’s data, 50 million people come to the site every month for recommendations and reviews, and most of these viewers are actually from Google. The new design puts the emphasis on the advantages that Foursquare presents, namely its ability to generate relationships between similar places and judge appeal based on hundreds of check-ins and likes. The service, in its new incarnation, isn’t too different from a Pandora for restaurants and bars. Whether it can compete with Yelp’s already established 100 million monthly visitors remains to be seen, but they’re definitely trying to make a concerted effort at trying.