Foursquare Missing Features

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Foursquare style check-ins is a feature not a product. Facebook Places has proven that location base check-ins are a feature easily implemented. That said, Foursquare and other location based services have tried to wrap social games and compulsion loops into their products in the form of mayorships and badges to make the check-in process more meaningful. But as a feature, as opposed to a product, checking into a place, restaurant, or business does not scratch any real business itch. I understand that to a brick and mortar business, having an idea of how often your customers are near your business and marketing to them when they are can be beneficial, but if all Foursquare is doing is checking in then users will eventually experience check-in burnout.

Location based check-ins is a feature and to one degree or another you can lock in your location on Facebook Places, Yelp, Google Buzz, Twitter, Gowalla, etc. But aside from running for mayor of my local dollar store and racking up some virtual badges there is little benefit or purpose for the end user. The missing piece of location base services is commerce, making users into customers.

Like most folks, I hate waiting in line at a restaurant. Too often when you are stuck in line you have someone crowding into your personal space, you feel like you are just wasting time standing there waiting to order some food, and worst is when people call in and their order is taken before yours. Wouldn’t it be great if you can use a location base service to indicate that you are near your favorite taqueria and have the ability to order right there using a mobile app? If Foursquare could do this, I wouldn’t mind given them my credit card number, turning me from a free loading user to paying customer.

There a ton of apps on the iTunes app store that use users’ location to find a store or deal nearby. The Groupon app can locate deals nearby. The Macy’s iShop app has a store locator that uses your phone’s location. If McDonald’s or Starbucks had a location base mobile app that allowed me to order from half a block down by charging my card and had my items ready as I walked in, that would add so much more value to the mobile app user, establishment, and location based service.

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