Loopt has announced a new mobile app that is the manifestation of the “loyalty card” program we previewed back in January. Known as Loopt Star, it will be built around a local check-in model and give users points toward discounts or free stuff at participating locations.
This is similar to Foursquare’s mayorships and leaderboards, but the rewards are less “virtual.” Though Foursquare is quickly gaining popularity, we’ve long maintained the value exchange of virtual goods will lose novelty. Foursquare itself knows this and promises more features and incentives for check-ins — along the lines of its nearby specials.
For Loopt, the check-in model is not only an increasingly popular one, but it’s also a departure from its original app. In other words, the active check-in takes the place of the passive location tracking. These two models represent the main paradigms in mobile social local apps, with the former mostly taking the lead due to privacy and other reasons.
Loopt has been moving toward the check-in model for a while, with the functionality integrated with its core app last year, but this takes a bigger step in that direction. One of the benefits of check-ins, besides privacy, is the greater degree of relevance inherent in a “place,” as opposed to a random lat/long reading or map pushpin.
The user engagement and ad implications are getting many start-ups excited, though this comes with SMB sales challenges often ignored. In the meantime, the path of lesser resistance is forming ad partnerships with national brands that have localized constituents (think restaurant franchises).
Loopt has done just that, with partnerships with Gap, Burger King and Jack in the Box at launch, and more brands to be added on a weekly basis. They’ll reportedly pay loopt on a CPA basis for check-ins at these locations. Over time, as advertisers see value, it should move down market to SMB segments, though that will continue to be a “tough nut to crack.”
Loopt Star will be iPhone-only at at the onset, but the company plans to expand to all other platforms (as it’s done with its original app). As we reported in January’s preview, it will utilize Facebook Connect to seed social activity with the existing social graph and make signing up easier.