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Foursquare talks up traffic-building local search in new campaign

Foursquare, a mobile application dedicated to local searches and discoveries, has rolled out its first brand campaign this week after undertaking a major rebranding initiative this summer to establish a stronger stake in the mobile space.

The campaign, which features outdoor advertisement placements in various kiosks, subway cars and bikeshare hubs in Chicago and New York, is designed to educate a broader audience about Foursquare’s new features. In May of 2014, Foursquare split its mobile app into two: Swarm features venue check-ins and the ability to find friends in locations near you while Foursquare learns users’ tastes and provides recommendations.

“With the launch of the new Foursquare, we wanted to educate people who haven’t used our app (or haven’t used it in a few years) about all the great things we’ve built,” said Brendan Lewis, head of communications at Foursquare, New York, NY. “Local search can be better – you and I should never get the same search results, and this ad campaign tells that story.”

Customized recommendations
Foursquare is gearing up to face competitors such as Yelp and Urbanspoon with its customized recommendations for users, based on over 6 billion check-ins and more than 60 million reviews that consumers have already submitted.

With a new tagline, “Foursquare learns what you like and leads you to places you’ll love,” the app uses location data to recommend suitable venues to users. This is also beneficial for retailers, as the app can help drive more in-store traffic.

“Just as Foursquare was founded on the intersection of a person, a physical location, and a mobile device, I believe that their influence will remain on driving consumers into brick and mortar locations,” said Aubriana Alvarez Lopez, lead strategist for mobile at Digital Element, Atlanta, GA.

The app saw high levels of success when it first launched in 2009 but experienced stalling growth in 2012, prompting the company to reimagine the brand’s perspective. Data has suggested that unbundling into two apps – Swarm and Foursquare – was the right decision, with tips-per-active-user reportedly up 116 percent weekly more than the previous Foursquare.

Highlighting the central features, which include leaving tips and reviews, rating places and paying forward with advice, was a main component of the ad campaign, which will also be seen nationwide on Facebook and Twitter.

“It’s important to keep in mind that checking in now occurs in Swarm, our sister app, and it also has a lot of other great elements in it – like neighborhood sharing (without having to check-in at a specific location) and the ability to make plans with your friends nearby,” Mr. Lewis said.

Competitive space
While many retailers also offer check-ins and ratings on products, Foursquare is marketing itself as a universal app available to a large audience.

The campaign, which is targeting users age 20 to 50, features photos of people during a night out, conversation and commute, and lists various items and foods that the app has learned they enjoy. It is meant to depict the app’s ability to personalize options based on specific likes.

“Consumers are more likely to have the Foursquare app over multiple retailer apps, therefore, integration with brands and retailers will be more likely/viable via the Foursquare app,” Ms. Lopez said. “This new way of thinking for Foursquare could potentially be an upgrade if campaigns are executed properly, as now the app is intuitive in a sense and is soft-selling the consumer what they want even when they don’t know they want it.”

“Learning a consumer’s preferences and behavior to create meaning is infinitely more valuable than any gamification, badge, or mayorship could ever be.”

After Swarm’s introduction this year, Foursquare saw a 54 percent lift in user engagement in August 2014 compared to the same month in 2013. The company is hoping to emulate that success year-round.

“Foursquare has always been about helping discover great new places, and uncover hidden gems around them,” Foursquare’s Mr. Lewis said. “If we’re able to do that from a practical standpoint, we’ll be achieving that goal.”

Final Take
Alex Samuely is an editorial assistant on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York