With the explosion of check-in services like Foursquare and Facebook Places, marketers are facing a unique opportunity to build guest loyalty by leveraging check-ins.

Marketers must pay attention to check-ins, because they provide multiple value points to a business:

  • A customer is physically visiting your business or store
  • A customer is telling her hundreds of friends about your store
  • Analyzing check-in frequency over time can help marketers learn more about their customers

Retailers, restaurants and brands can leverage check-ins to build referral engines by creating programs that engage their best customers and encourage them to check-in.  Let’s take a look at the best ways to engage customers and increase loyalty with check-ins.

Deals and Rewards

Yes, rewarding your best guests is important.  Marketers can now leverage check-ins to implement loyalty programs more efficiently than ever. Instead of bearing the cost of printing thousands of plastic reward cards, marketers can now turn their guests’ mobile phones into their loyalty cards.

Here are the first steps for getting started with check-in based loyalty programs:

  • Businesses should claim their venues on check-in services like Foursquare, Facebook Places and Gowalla.  While this is time consuming, it’s necessary in order to start offering rewards through these services.   Alternatively, businesses can use platforms like PlacePunch to run loyalty programs across Foursquare, Facebook Places, Gowalla and other social services.
  • Marketers should create loyalty programs that create incentives for repeat check-ins.  These rewards should differentiate your casual customers and most frequent guests.  For instance, consider giving away a small reward on a guest’s first check-in, such as a free drink.  Increase the value of the rewards as guests check-in more often.  For instance, Concentrics Restaurants offers its guests a free beer or glass of wine every 5 check-ins, but also offers guests 50% off if they check-in 25 times.

Surprise and Delight

Long a practice utilized in the hospitality industry, “surprise and delight” is the practice of providing your customers with that unexpected something extra.   Check-ins provide another opportunity to “surprise and delight” guests.

For instance, randomly reward your best customers with unexpected recognition and deals.  Send them a coupon when they check-in.  Alternatively, simply sending a simple “thank you for visiting us” message can differentiate your business with consumers. 

Want to drive more traffic to your stores?  Surprise customers with offers and deals when they check-in at nearby locations.  Providing an unexpected 20% off coupon to nearby customers will surprise them and give them reason to stop by your venue, which can turn an empty house into a profitable evening.

Build relationships via Twitter

Often times, guests share their check-ins via Twitter.  Savvy marketers monitor Twitter for check-ins at their stores and use it as a reason to build relationships with guests.  Communicating with guests when they check-in can be used for both goodwill and promotional purposes.  Next time you see a check-in on Twitter, try responding back by:

  • Asking how their visit was
  • Saying “thanks for visiting us”
  • Offering deals and offers to incentivize future visits

For example, InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) uses Twitter to thanks guests for visiting its hotels and to invite guests to participate in seasonal contests and promotions.  These timely and relevant messages provide IHG’s guests with a unique check-in experience and enhance brand loyalty.


Marketers today are incorporating check-ins throughout their programs to build and enhance customer loyalty.  Businesses today should utilize a combination of traditional loyalty schemas, surprise deals and targeted messaging programs to enhance customer loyalty and drive more check-ins to their business.

Author:  Adam Steinberg, co-founder of PlacePunch (@PlacePunch). PlacePunch  provides easy-to-use loyalty and mobile marketing solutions that leverage “check-ins” to deliver more customers to your business.  Try PlacePunch for free at www.placepunch.com.