Four Australian organisations are anticipating that the use of Facebook Check In Deals — a geo-location smartphone feature that enables people to “check in” the name of a place or business they are visiting — will drive online presence and improve customer interactions.
The Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA), KFC, Westfield Group and 7-Eleven were the first four companies to announce deals with the social networking site this week. Check In Deals has already been rolled out in the US and Europe.
Westfield general manager of marketing, John Batistich, told Computerworld Australia that Westfield Group used the app to help promote its retailers. Shoppers will receive special discounts available in-store upon “checking in” at Westfield shopping centres using the Facebook Places feature.
For example, jewellery retailer Angus and Coote offered a 30 per cent discount on all full-price jewellery to customers who used the service this week, with Cotton On to offer a 30 per cent discount from next week.
“It [Check In Deals] taps a number of emerging trends, such as the acceleration of smartphones and its application to shopping,” said Batistich.
“The Check In application can be accessed on a range of smartphones, such as those that run the Android operating system as well as the iPhone and Blackberry.”
While figures of how successful the app deal was have yet to be released, Batistich said there were some compelling benefits for retailers and shoppers such as building awareness and rewarding regular shoppers.
"I’d like to think we can grow traffic to those stores and deliver incremental sales,” he said.
“There are no costs for the retailers apart from the discount they incur associated with offering the deal.”
In regards to other social media activities, Westfield has its own Facebook page with 98,000 “likes” so far.
According to Batistich, there appeared to be a "blind pursuit" by some corporations and retailers in maximising the size of their community.
"We are a bit different because we want to do that [maximise our community size] but without compromising engagement, so we have invested in a full-time Facebook moderator and content creator," he said.
“On Twitter we’ve also been active for the last three months with a feed for Westfield Sydney, but we see that has been more occasion-based and more local.
“For Google+ it’s another thing that is in beta and we saw last week that it has about 25 million users worldwide. We have no programs that are live now because we’re still at a learning stage with that website.”
Westfield Group also has an interactive website, which has been in operation since November 2010, with 130 retailers on board and 250,000 products available for purchase.
While some retailers reported good sales, Batistich admitted that other retailers were not doing so well and Westfield Group was working with them to improve performance.
CBA offered customers who check in and open a new ‘Everyday Account’ free Event Cinemas movie tickets for a year, and is limited to the first 2200 customers.
CBA consumer marketing general manager, Mark Murray, said that if the first Check In deal was successful then it would use it for other services in the future.
“We’ve allowed an offer period of a month for the everyday account deal, but we think it will sell out before then,” he said.
At the moment, CBA is only offering Check In Deals for personal accounts in the consumer space, but it may expand deals into the small and medium business (SMB) arena in future.
“There are a large number of Australians using Facebook Check In and they’re saying where they are and what they are doing,” Murray said.
“That can influence what their friends and family are doing so consumers are becoming influencers on others.”
CBA also has 50,000 likes on its Facebook page, 5500 followers on Twitter and 277,000 views on its consumer YouTube channel.
“We’re finding sites such as Twitter really useful for talking to our customers, such as letting them know what is happening in the bank as well as customer service such as dealing with enquiries,” Murray said.
“When you respond to a customer’s problem on Twitter, lots of people can see that so you’re having a ‘one to many’ conversation.”
Similar to Westfield Group, CBA has also explored Google+ but Murray could not say what activities the bank had planned for its site.
KFC offered its first Check In deal for only 24 hours. On Monday, customers who checked in using Facebook Places received a VIP coupon for one large Krusher drink and one regular chips for $4.95. For customers without a smartphone, coupons can be accessed at home by downloading the coupon from Facebook and printing it off for redemption at KFC stores nationwide.
KFC Australia chief marketing officer, Nikki Lawson, said in a statement that the fast food franchise was always looking at ways to provide customers with value for money.
"This is a great way to reward not only our Facebook fans, but Aussies across the country for their loyalty," she said.
7-Eleven's deal was similar to KFC’s, with customers who check in this week to receive the opportunity to buy a 450ml Coke, Coke Zero or Diet Coke for $1.
Head of marketing, Julie Laycock, said in a statement that geo-marketing was the perfect way to engage with customers, as the mobile phone was typically the only device people had when making transactions.
"Check In Deals will be a game changer in the Australian retail space because while there are many websites offering coupons and deals, Check In highlights deals available where smartphone customers shop and play," she said.
Laycock added that with over 92,000 Facebook fans and 500 convenience stores in Australia, the Check In platform would allow the company to bridge the gap between online engagement and the real world.
Follow Hamish Barwick on Twitter: @HamishBarwick
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