In August 2010 Facebook started a new service called ‘Facebook Places’. Fueled by the technology of location based services, and the dynamism of the social experience on Facebook, the service allows a user to perform the typical geosocial activities at a physical location, namely checking in, checking in with other people, tagging them (as done with photos), finding out others in the place, etc. Firstly, available on iPhone and then on Blackberry and Android phones, the service was launched in the U.S and then made accessible for some European nations too. In India however, the service has not yet been launched officially. As per some tech experts, few people could open the service page with their smartphones but only when the server was in the U.S.
The next initiative by Facebook transformed the social experience at offline locations into a business opportunity. In November 2010, Facebook announced ‘Deals’.
In a very simple 3 step process, the user can look for near-by places on Facebook with his/ her smartphone, check-in at one of the physical locations using the yellow icon (notifying deals available) of Facebook Places, and then click on the deal icon and redeem the offer. The screen shows a message that the user has to show the cashier, and instantly it gets updated in the user’s news feed.
As of now, Facebook has annouced four types of deals – ‘Individual Deals’ for discounts, free samples or other rewards to new or existing customers, ‘Friend Deals’, where a group of people can claim something together, ‘Loyalty Deals’ for the existing customers with a certain number of check-ins and ‘Charity Deals’, which allow user to donate for a cause.
A very simple yet powerful integration of social commerce with location based services. So, before Places and Deals are launched specifically for India, let’s have a peek at how they can help generating foot-falls and make an impact in the retail marketspace.
Deals with Loyalty
This service can be utilized in creating brand loyalty for the any business with retail presence. The outlets of a brand marked on Facebook (‘child places’, as Facebook calls them) and have the contest running can witness the conversations happening in and around them. The best part being, these conversations can lead to increase in visitors because of the nature of deals (loyalty based, or group discounts).
Deals with virality
It is not just about the deals in an offline location that ends with the customer getting a special discount. Every time a user avails an offer it gets posted to his/her Facebook page. And more essentially, the status updates can be posted by the brand claiming for a deal or announcing it with the link. Also the brand owner can create specific Facebook ads for the deals only.
Deals with engagement
The deals can also support content creation for the fan page of the brand. People can share the experiences of shopping, eating at a restaurant and other public activities related to the location and the offer. So, in general this can enhance the engagement on the fan page and seed lots of conversations around the offers and the brand.
Lots of discussion in the social business community have started as Facebook is now supposedly following the footsteps of the well recognised geo-social services like Foursquare or Gowalla. Inspite of all negative comments on ‘Places’, what gives it a significant importance is that it’s a Facebook initiative. So how can businesses ignore the opportunity to generate sales using the most populous social utility? Especially, when it involves offline actions now.