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Foursquare plunges further into local search with app update

Foursquare has rolled out an update for its iPhone and Android apps. As mobile check-ins continue to evolve, foursquare is one of many companies scrambling to compete in the location-based marketing space with more targeted features.

“Foursquare already caters to people looking for experiences built around location,” said Henry Cipolla, chief technology officer at Localytics, Boston.

“Adding more granular local search allows them to leverage their existing technology to give their customers new ways to interact with something they have been using for years,” he said.

“This helps customers find the kinds of businesses they are actually looking for, and it helps businesses bring more qualified customers into their doors.”

Specific searches
The goal behind the app revamp is to give consumers more specific ways to filter their searches for nearby stores and restaurants.

Users can search for places based not only by operating hours or location, but also on past check-ins and behavior. For example, consumers can search for restaurants that they have not been to yet, but might be interested in going to.

Search filters also include places where friends have been, locations that a user has saved themselves and locations that are offering specials.

According to Mr. Cipolla, consumers already use specific filtering tools when making Web searches, meaning that foursquare’s new features are essentially a more granular version of Google searches.

This helps get consumers to the most relevant and applicable information as quickly as possible.

To complete this kind of search, foursquare is digging into all of the data that the app has collected about a consumer to presumably offer more contextually-relevant information.

The goal behind these updates is likely to help foursquare own the location-based space that is increasingly becoming more crowded with companies including Yelp, Groupon and Google.

Google’s new mobile Maps products, for example will soon be adding offers as a way for merchants to drive in-store traffic and revenue (see story).

Additionally, Groupon recently unveiled a new universal search feature in its iPhone and Android apps (see story).

“As a consumer, the promise of local discovery is still largely unmet,” said Jason Lehmbeck, CEO of Data Pop, Los Angeles.

“Giving the consumer the ability to further clarify their intent in a user-friendly way helps drive more meaningful local discovery,” he said.

“As a marketer, the more Foursquare and others can provide real consumer intent at scale the better. These tools will enable marketers to more finely tone their offering to the greater specificity of what consumers are looking for.”

Relevancy will be king
Context and relevance will be critical for any of these companies to own the location-based space.

Mobile check-ins continue to dwindle for consumers, often times because there is not an upfront value for using their mobile device to check-in.

Additionally, solely relying on location data is not a smart move for marketers nowadays.

With task completion one of the main reasons that consumers use their mobile device, trying to cut through with a different message when users have a specific purpose in mind is difficult.

Although consumers might not be comfortable broadcasting their every location, there is an opportunity here for location-based services to keep a record of where a consumer is to aid in discovery, according to Data Pop’s Mr. Lehmbeck.

“Outside of the avid check-in consumers, I think check-ins will fade into the background of the consumer experience,” Mr. Lehmbeck said.

“They won’t go away but just become a part of the services the consumer uses,” he said.

Final Take
Lauren Johnson is associate reporter on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York