Foursquare, the location "check-in" service that launched two years ago at SXSW, last night updated its service with a range of new features just in time to show them off at the same show again this year.
-- An "Explore" tab -- a discovery feature that provides recommendations on where to go nearby based on users' past check ins and that of their friends and other users.
-- A new points system and leader board designed to encourage users to check in to new and different locations
-- Loyalty features that include deals participating merchants can offer users who are repeat customers. Venues can reward large groups of customers who check-in at once, regulars, first-time customers. And the app will display nearby places offering these specials as well.
Taken together, the goal of the updated service is to get back to its gaming roots.
Foursquare was a pioneer in the "gamification" of life that is becoming a hot trend among new entertainment services and apps. But ironically, Foursquare in the two years since launch has become more of a tool than a game. The company is taking these steps to return to its gaming form.
But more importantly for the music industry, the changes are designed to drive people to new places where they can spend time and money. To date, there's not been a whole lot of interaction between Foursquare and the music industry. That's because too much time has been spent worrying about how artists and labels can use Foursquare. The low-hanging fruit are venue owners -- think small clubs, and yes… even record stores.
In addition to the new features, Foursquare struck a deal with American Express through which Foursquare users can link their AMEX account to the app, allowing merchants to provide the specials mentioned above to cardholders. Merchants will be able to send push notifications on new deals as well.
Check out all the new merchant features on the Foursquare blog.
The company now claims 7.5 million users (from 5,000 after the 2009 SXSW launch) and more than 50 employees (from 12 last year). In 2010 alone, the service registered more than 500 million check ins. Over a quarter of a million businesses use Foursquare to reach these users today.
The music business can't afford to wait for Foursquare to develop some kind of special app or feature just for them. It's up to the businesses in this industry to take the ball and run with it.