The location-based, check-in phenomenon that Foursquare, Gowalla, Loopt and now Facebook Places have popularized domestically is going global, and the Austrian social Yellow Pages community Tupalo wants to be the first mover as the virtual check-in line crosses the pond.
The Vienna-based company, a joint venture of HEROLD.at and European Directories that is operational in five European nations, features check-ins on its newly released iPhone app and various Web platforms. You’ve heard of badges. Perhaps you’re even a “super mayor” or “foodie.” Now Tupalo is crowning “Kaisers” for those with the most check-ins at a certain spot.
CEO Mike Borras told BIA/Kelsey that achievement badges will serve as the initial rewards but emphasized that Tupalo is actively recruiting local businesses in its core Austrian markets to offer “check-in for rewards” inducements. Couponing is already a staple of the Web platform and will soon shift over to mobile as well.
Backing check-ins with tangible rewards can mitigate user fatigue and bolster the unique loyalty programs inherent in location-based offerings that are critical to local merchants.
The growth of location-based services overseas is worth watching. While Europe boasts high 3G rates, it lags behind the U.S. in smartphone penetration. Borras believes that European LBS is “primed to kick off in a big way in 2011” and wants Tupalo’s presence in core markets to be well-etched when the trend activates. It will need to act quickly, as Foursquare is already ensconced throughout Europe.
Borras is originally from the U.S. and has expanded the Tupalo brand into selected American markets, with Houston as the first. Domestic check-ins will not be immediately available, but he said they are “on our radar.”