Once upon a time Foursquare was a mobile app that allowed you to “check in” places and tell your friends you were there. That seems like a long time ago now. Foursquare has evolved into a local discovery tool and loyalty platform for businesses. It has effectively won in its “check-in” segment and has moved on to bigger and better things.
It’s no longer simply a mobile app either. The Foursquare website was effectively an afterthought for a long time. But now a redesign makes Foursquare.com a full-blown destination and generally a much more interesting and useful place to explore.
There’s now a large map on the homepage (once you’re signed in) and a range of places/lists to discover:
The first thing you’ll notice when you load up foursquare.com is a big map on the top (you can click on the arrow to make it even bigger). It shows everything interesting nearby – your friends, places that are trending (in yellow), places on your lists (green), places with Specials (orange), and places that are popular (blue). You can even drag the map around or zoom in and out and all the interesting places update automatically. Try dragging it around to see how it works.
Foursquare place pages have also been redesigned and the site is more “visual” generally.
Beyond the fact that the Foursquare website now has a better UI, what the company has done that is radical is to open the aperture of time. Foursquare now becomes a “planning” tool in a way that it never really was before.
People using the Foursquare app “on the go” typically were operating in a very compressed time frame: “what’s around me now?” and “what are the tips at this place?” Usage was more “in the moment.” Even as Foursquare developed “Explore” and “Radar” those tools still didn’t lend themselves to much planning. Foursquare was much more about serendipity. And while serendipity may work for users it generally doesn’t work that well for advertisers.
The new website allows people to plan and make decisions in advance of their arrival. If I’m going to be in London next week or next month I can plan my stay with Foursquare in a way that I probably wouldn’t or couldn’t have when it was more mobile centric.
You might argue that lots of information was always available on the site to enable planning and advanced decision-making. But I would respond the site just wasn’t very interesting or pleasing to use and so it wasn’t used in this way. The new design and new features change all that, with meaningful implications for advertising.
For an advertiser to influence your decisions they need time. One of the reasons that Groupon Now is having trouble is because of this “time problem.” In the moment or near realtime it’s difficult to sway me. If I’ve made a decision it will take a lot to change my mind or get me to try a new place. However if you add more time to the equation the calculus changes.
In the morning I’m much more open to suggestions about where to go for lunch than I am right before lunch after I’ve probably already made a decision. Making Foursquare into a planning tool — for the weekend, next week or next month — enables advertisers to inject themselves into that process and make offers or expose users to their pitches.
Accordingly, I think Foursquare’s advertising opportunities become much greater as the redesign takes hold and creates new usage patterns. And the combination of this broader advertising opportunity with check-ins becomes extremely interesting not just for loyalty but also for what I’ve called “real-world analytics.”
This is clearly the beginning of a new phase for Foursquare — with a new, expanded set of use cases and advertiser opportunities.