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What is a Location-Based Check-in?

Check-ins are at the center of location-based marketing. Senior members of several leading location-based marketing companies were asked to define a check-in. Here are some check-in definitions from leaders in the space:

A check-in is a digital record that a person visited a specific named place in the real world at a specific time. It has a couple of very interesting properties. First, it’s far more valuable than just location because it gives the context of “place” — is the person at the Outback Restaurant or the pharmacy next door? And place is subject to analysis: “people who go to place X also go to place Y,” or “this person frequents this place or these kinds of places.” From a business perspective, place enables the development of programs (loyalty/rewards, games) tied to specific businesses. Another key property is that check-ins happen in real time — they communicate “I’m here right now.” That opens opportunities for social connection in the moment.

    Jeff Holden, CEO Pelago, Makers of Whrrl (now part of Groupon)
comScore’s demographics of U.S adult mobile users who accessed check-in services in March, 20
Credit: Courtesy of eMarketer, Inc.
comScore’s demographics of U.S adult mobile users who accessed check-in services in March, 2011.

A check-in, broadly speaking, is a way to share your location — and more broadly what you’re doing at that location — with your friends. In many ways, a check-in is a standardized greeting in a conversation about what’s going on at a place. It provides a structured framework for the conversation, but the interesting part is the content that comes after the ‘hello.’

    Seth Priebatsch, Chief Ninja, SCVNGR

We think of a check-in as a way for users to opt-in and share their locations with friends or other applications and services. At foursquare, we also use check-in data to help surface interesting content, such as nearby friends’ recommendations for things to do or places to visit, and special offers from retailers. We see the check-in as the atomic unit in creating technology that facilitates serendipity.

    Dennis Crowley, cofounder and CEO of foursquare

Checking in is the match that lights the fire. It’s the social declaration of “I’m here!” that opens the door to seeing the world around you through a new set of eyes: Who is here? What can I do nearby? What secrets are there to learn here? It’s not the end. It’s only the beginning.

    Josh Williams, CEO of Gowalla

Check-in is a way to indicate your location at a particular place, and, if the check-in is public, share it with your friends. In its simplest form, it’s a status update, indicating where someone is at a particular time.

    Nataly Kogan, Vice President, Director of Consumer Experience for WHERE

There are two kinds of check-ins:

  • Active: A person physically pushes a button on his phone or device to check in.

  • Passive: A person’s device or an action (such as swiping a loyalty card) checks him in without him having to do anything.

With the active check-in, which is more common in location-based services, you’re asking your customers to use their valuable time to perform a small task.

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