Facebook Launches A Local Deals Platform

There was no rumored announcement of some sort of “Facebook phone” but Facebook did use a mobile-centric event at its headquarters today to announce several new mobile offerings. Perhaps most notably, the company says local businesses will now be able to use Facebook to offer deals to people who use the social network to “check-in” to their stores.

The company also says it’s introducing a “single sign-on” feature that will let mobile users easily log-on to apps using their Facebook log-ins. For instance, a Groupon representative showed how a user could sign-up for the latest deal on the company’s Android app, using their Facebook username and password.

As for the deals platform, executives showed how merchants could offer one of several types of deals to customers that checked-in to their stores on the social network. For instance, stores can offer a “loyalty” deal that lets them offer free items to customers after they have purchased a certain number of items (The feature has a virtual “punch card” to keep track). They can also offer straightforward discounts or ones that only go into effect when you check-in with a friend.

Facebook has lined up several major chains, including Gap, to offer deals, although there’s also a self-service function for small businesses. The feature is free for merchants to use, but executives said stores could of course use the social network to advertise their pages.

It’s not clear how many people are using its check-in feature, called Places, right now, although if this catches on it will clearly give users a financial incentive to use it. Places was introduced in August. Asked about usage, Zuckerberg only said it was “multiples larger” than other similar services.

Zuckerberg did use the event to provide an update on Facebook’s overall mobile usage, saying that the company now has 200 million users who access the social network “across all platforms,” a figure that has tripled over the last year.