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Summary:

An offer from The Gap that was based on Facebook Places “check ins” provides a real-world example of how much work both retailers like The Gap and services like Facebook and Foursquare are going to have to do to get people comfortable with location-based offers.

Facebook Places

We wrote recently about a Pew Research Center report that showed how location-sharing “check in” services such as Foursquare still have a way to go before they become anything close to mainstream, and a recent offer from The Gap that used Facebook Places to offer free pairs of jeans provides a real-world example of just how far. The reality is that, in the short term at least, both retailers and services like Facebook and Foursquare are going to have to do a lot of educating and hand-holding for users, because most people have no idea what they are talking about when they say things like “location sharing” or “check in.”

According to Fast Company, the Gap promotion — which offered users a free pair of jeans if they “checked in” at a Gap store using the Facebook Places feature — was a “huge success.” A survey of stores, the magazine said, showed that they had given away all the pairs of jeans they had, and that customers had been checking in with Facebook Places. However, the comments on the Fast Company story suggest something different. As one user says:

Have you looked at the GAP Facebook page to see everyone’s feedback? This thing looks like a huge flop. People are super confused, nobody knows what Places is or how to check in, and the “first 10,000″ wording is super-misleading when it’s really the first handful or so of customers at each individual location.

Sure enough, if you go to the page that The Gap set up on Facebook for the promotion, there are a whole pile of bewildered users — most of whom appear to have been going to the Facebook page and typing the words “check in.” Others said they had gone to a Gap store and didn’t have “the coupon” they needed for jeans. Most clearly didn’t understand that checking in required the Facebook Places feature, and that the offer also required users to do this at a specific Gap store location, using an iPhone or an Android device.

That confusion was on top of the details of the offer itself, which involved 10,000 pairs of jeans distributed over hundreds and hundreds of retail outlets. From the comments on the store’s Facebook page, many stores seem to have only had 10 or 20 pairs of jeans to give away, and those who got pairs of jeans were typically people who lined up before the store had even opened. So it’s likely that even some of those who did understand how “checking in” works with Facebook Places didn’t wind up actually getting jeans (at least one store seems to have given away jeans to anyone who even mentioned the promotion, rather than actually checking in).

At this point, location-based discounts seem like a great idea, but in practice, they may take a bit more effort from both the companies offering them and the services that they are based on, such as Foursquare and Facebook. Until location-sharing becomes more mainstream, “checking in” is still going to seem like a foreign concept to many, unless you are talking about getting a room at a hotel.

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  1. I wish Facebook places and the business fan page could be merged. It confuses customers, should they like the page, or should they check-in with facebook places. Every business should be able to claim their fb page and merge it with it’s existing fan page to get complete and accurate analytics. A lot of restaurants put up specials on their fan page but if someone checks-in using fb places, they may never see the special. #justsaying

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    1. That’s a good point, Jai — I wonder if Facebook will consider that kind of move.

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      1. Can you merge multiple location places with a single fan page? Gap has thousands of locations, but only one official fan page.

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  2. heh, things have come full circle. i remember many years ago that bloomingdales used to give away free henckel’s knives whilst stocks last, in the hope that you would buy the rest of the set. the only folks who bothered were students visiting the big apple. and they could not afford anything else in the store anyway.

    the whole check-in thing is a red herring here.

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  3. Not sure why I see some silver lining here (and, I pretty much loathe FB)…but, I believe Places/Deals is going to suck up all of the low-end mCoupon business (putting a lot of SMS companies out of business)…

    First, this was simply too big a promo at launch for either Gap or FB. They should have rolled this out more grassroots. But, even with failure, they are educating the public for the next go-round. People lining up at Gap stores in early November? Never been done before.

    They’ll work out the kinks and awareness will grow (exponentially). Like it or not, the low-hanging fruit of mCouponing just got sucked up by one company. Oh, I know, SMS reaches all phones and Facebook apps are only smartphones…You know what? Retailers don’t care about you if you don’t have a smartphone.

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  4. Most of us who follow sites like Gigaom, Techcrunch, Mashable, etc. tend to assume that ‘mainstream’ America is relatively well informed about what’s going on in social media, LBS, mobile, etc.

    Truth is, most don’t.

    Social media is different things to different consumers. For one person, social media is simply a way to connect with grandma and old high school friends. For another, it’s a huge part of their life (which is the kind of consumer most brands dream of—assuming those brands embrace social media). But there is no one type of consumer. There’s various kinds, and it’s important to recognize that the majority of those consumers aren’t going to be social media ‘savvy’.

    Still, it was a good step for The Gap to launch this campaign. Granted, they messed up a bit, but at least they’re learning. No one person (or brand) ever accomplished something great by being too scared to try.

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  5. I think Cristian nailed it on the head – While most of us are looking at a glowing screen (on our desk or in our hand) most of the day, the majority of consumers out there simply are not.

    If you hadn’t been an avid follower of tech sites, would you have know about the promo? Probably not.

    This actually goes a long way in proving that social aspects of campaigns need to be tightly-aligned with traditional marketing/PR efforts in order to jump the digital divide.

    It’s still early on in terms of maturation for the location-based deal world, but these sort of growing pains make way for great campaigns in the future. Kudos to a large brand like Gap stepping up to the plate and taking a big cut – even if some are discussing the power with which they hit the ball.

    Ron Schott
    Spring Creek Group

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  6. I read the article on Fast Company this morning and was scratching my head. Glad that you wrote this piece.

    I was also bewildered the author, Austin Carr, going on and on about the fact that there was no promotion for this. I would call multiple announcements to their 800k+ fan base ON FACEBOOK on the days leading up to this deal enough to activate swarms of Facebook users to jump on this.

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  7. I actually think Facebook paid for the cost of the jeans. Just my hunch. I also linked to my blog post your article and gave you Kudos.

    http://spaceagencynotes.blogspot.com/2010/11/gap-and-facebook-places-farce.html

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  8. [...] live last weekend including the well-publicized Gap “free Jeans” deal. Matthew Ingram discussed apparent myriad problems with consumer understanding of how to redeem the offer: [I]f you go to the [...]

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  9. I can’t help but wonder if “check in” based offers are going to cause trouble. Why should I have to tell Facebook where I am. This type of tracking is heading for a lawsuit.

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  10. [...] a Fan on Facebook, following us on Twitter, or subscribing to our RSS feed.Mathew Ingram at GigaOM recently blogged about the confusion that results from marketing campaigns that assume too much about their [...]

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