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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