As LBS and check-in services mature, a common theme here and elsewhere is a call to move beyond the social and game mechanics that have driven their early growth. This requires a shift toward a user “value exchange” grounded in monetary value.
The foundation for this shift comes in many forms such as better venue pages and self-serve tools for merchants to claim, edit and add deals to their profiles. Check-in poster child Foursquare has done many of these things and continues to innovate with new funding and a growing staff.
Gowalla is also going down this evolutionary path and staying true to many of the philosophies espoused in our last conversation. This has included user-generated local “highlights,” and a more recent set of feature enhancements meant to entice both users and local merchants:
— City Pages: Dedicated pages will now be available for more than 30 international cities. These will be a sort of discovery engine that surface the most popular places and activities, as governed by the aforementioned UGC highlights. This will include a map view to see where the most check-ins are happening.
— Verified Listings: Another key featured allows merchants to claim their locations and enhance their business details. Once verified, this comes with the benefit of adding custom messages for users who check in or view a Gowalla listing. Creating custom deals — which Foursquare currently offers — is coming soon.
— Branded Stamps: Lastly, and related to the previous item, verified businesses can purchase branded stamps, which users earn when checking in (kind of like Foursquare badges). This also gets merchants placement on the Verified Business Pages that Gowalla features across its mobile apps.
Like Foursquare, these stamps have been provided to brands, landmarks and other entities on a one-on-one basis. But now they’re open to anyone in a self-serve manner. The price will start at $5 per day and escalate based on volume. It will roll out first in NYC, Austin and San Francisco.
Next up are additional cities as well as a “stamp calendar,” which TechCrunch reports will let merchants reserve times for their custom stamps to be featured. These are all good feature evolutions, which have a good shot at appealing to users and merchants.
The latter is the challenge as we keep saying, due to the time constraints and technical savvy of SMBs. These factors amplify, the further you get from big cities and tech hubs. Fortunately, Gowalla is most popular in New York, San Francisco and its hometown of Austin.
We’ll keep a close eye on it. In the meantime, Gowalla Director of Business Development Andy Ellwood will be on stage to explain more during our Interactive Local Media conference in December. Hope to see you there.