And the check-in / coupon wars continue!
After testing it out in Austin during SXSW, Google has rolled out Google Latitude Check-In offers nationwide, teaming up with partners like American Eagle, Macy’s and Quiznos to let users “unlock” offers all around the United States. It may not seem like revolutionary news with all the activity in the offers/deals space as of late, but for Google, it may give them the coupon success they’ve been hoping for.
So how does it work? To take advantage of the offer potential, users must download the Google Latitude app for the Android or iPhone (sorry, Blackberry users). Once you’re set up, participating is as easy as:
- Check in
- Gain status: Each time you check in at a particular location, you’ll increase your status level at that place. There are three default status levels (Regular, VIP and Guru); however, partners can also create their own. For example, keep checking into Quiznos and you may become a Champion of Taste.
- Unlock offers: To encourage frequent check-ins at your locations, businesses can determine at what status level offers are made available. For example, offers like the 20 percent off discount at American Eagle Outfitters can only be unlocked with statuses such as Regular, VIP or Guru. Foursquare introduced a similar system in its new upgrade recently.
Sounds familiar, right? Yeah. At its core, the check-in offers available through Google Latitude aren’t too stand-out, especially for a heavy Foursquare or Yelp user. But Google has be wondering if (and hoping that) Google Latitude’s Check-In offers will finally give them the coupon and local deals arm they’ve been going after for years.
If you haven’t been paying attention, this isn’t Google’s first foray into the world of local deals, not by a long shot. Most just haven’t garnered all that much attention.
I remember when Google Maps first got coupons all the way back in 2006. Many of us hoped this would be a boon for small business owners and would help them catch the eye of targeted local users. But that didn’t happen – coupons never caught on with users (most were never aware they existed), and SMBs weren’t totally sure how to use them or even how to set them up in their own accounts.
Things got quiet on the coupon front until Google made a play for mobile coupons back in the fall of 2009. Again, little action. And just when we thought Google Coupons was long forgotten, it was entered into the witness protection program as Google Offers. Now Google is making yet another coupon play, putting check-ins and offers straight into Google Latitude.
For me, watching Google flop around in the local deals space continues to be frustrating because they don’t seem to know what they want to do or who they want to be. With Google’s size and the number of small business owners already signed up for Google Places, it seems like a deal component not only makes sense, but would also do well. But not when it’s launched as nothing more than a Foursquare mirror.
Google is not Foursquare, not in intent and not in audience. I’d much rather see Google develop Google Offers into a real product that can be placed inside Google Place Pages than to create odd partnerships with Quizno’s and Macy’s that I’m not sure their core audience — traditional businesses and users — will ever adopt. If Google is looking for a deals component to mimic, I’d point them to Yelp’s, not Foursquare. That seems much more in tune with what Google is all about.
But that’s just my two cents. What do you think? Is Google trudging down the right path with Google Latitude check-ins, or will average users ever understand (or care) what Latitude and these deal services are all about?