The check-in game for location-based services has turned into a competition to serve up offers and deals. But the next step is discount offers that don’t wait for a check-in but find you where you are, something we’re starting to see more and more. The latest example is a new partnership between Groupon and Loopt, which will bring Groupon Now’s limited time offers to Loopt users in the form of alerts as they move around.
The partnership helps bring the deal inventory of Groupon together with Loopt’s passive location technology, allowing users to receive alerts on their smartphone about timely deals nearby. Groupon Now, a new instant deal service, is currently just available in Chicago and requires users to enter their location. But Loopt users who opt in to the alerts will be able to get the deals based on their location without opening their app. Loopt began testing this at South by Southwest with a number of brands, and is now looking to bulk up the service using Groupon Now’s deals. Loopt users will be able to see the deals in their places lists but need to sign-up for a Groupon account to redeem them.
AT&T (s t) also began offering location-based discount notifications in March with its ShopAlerts service, which allows users to opt in and get text message offers when their nearby a deal. That service uses Placecast technology, which creates geofences around certain locations by tapping the cellular network. Placecast has also been enabling other location-based offers with retailers in the U.S. and the U.K.
This is obviously a new use of location data, and there’s a lot of learning going on. Sam Altman, Loopt’s CEO, said Loopt is going slowly, capping offers at just one a day. Loopt is still trying to figure out how many offers users want to receive and what the optimal range is for deals. But when done right, it can be a big win for merchants, allowing them to push out limited-time deals that can help drive traffic during slow periods or help move perishable products. And consumers can receive nearby relevant offers they weren’t aware of.
It’s unclear when this technology will come to Groupon’s own app, but Altman assumes it’s only a matter of time. It certainly fits Groupon’s new mobile focus, evidenced by its Groupon Now service, which has attracted 1,000 merchants since rolling out earlier this month. Groupon VP Mobile Partnerships Michael Shim said earlier this week that he expects half of all Groupon’s deals in the next couple of years sold and purchased through mobile.
That’s going to be the future of local deals. Why wait for someone to announce their presence at a retail location or fire up your website or app? Get them to opt -in ahead of time and push out offers and rewards in real time as they move about. I wrote last year about this dawning era of persistent location and how it will enable a lot of brands to communicate more with consumers. Placecast, Xtify and others are helping enable more and more of these offers. But I agree with Altman that we need to go slow here. Users don’t want to be stalked or spammed with a stream of offers. A lot will come down to the relevance and value of these deals. But if location-based services can get users the right deal at the right time, matching their interests with the surrounding context, users, I imagine, will be glad they’re getting the location-based deals.