Foursquare co-founder and CEO Dennis Crowley came to the Interactive Advertising Bureau MIXX Conference & Expo on Monday armed with big numbers: 25 million users, 5 million check-ins a day and 1 million registered merchants.
And he sees room for growth, conceding that many interested brands might have had a hard time reaching out to the check-in service. But with the hiring of Steven Rosenblatt as chief revenue officer and a wave of tools ready to be put into action, Crowley said Foursquare is “open for business.”
Many users are drawn into the service not because of its social elements, Crowley said, but because of its ability to help them save money through discounts and coupons. That’s important, because partnerships with merchants are what will drive Foursquare’s revenue — so users’ favorite part of the application is also what will make Foursquare money, a potentially lucrative alignment.
Among tools Crowley highlighted: A partnership with American Express that allows for discounts, earned through check-ins, to automatically be applied to a credit card, eliminating the need to ask staff members to manually redeem a coupon. That was seen as a sticking point in Foursquare’s studies of mobile couponing.
Crowley, however, said Foursquare doesn’t see itself as a coupon service or a social network. “We’re a Big Data company … specifically trying to solve problems around mobile search,” he said. That means not only taking on small, location-based startups but also taking aim at Google.
The most impressive part of Crowley’s presentation, at least visually, was a graphic showing New York City with a time-lapsed representation of all Foursquare check-ins over 24 hours. As the city lit up with green dots representing check-ins, Crowley said Foursquare’s data will allow it to communicate to interested brands and consumers what is happening, where it’s happening and when it’s happening.
Crowley’s presentation touched on a main theme of IAB MIXX, articulated earlier in the day by L’Oreal Chief Marketing Officer Marc Speichert: Advertising messages must respect consumer choice and be delivered only when consumers are ready and actively looking for information.
Foursquare seems to have that covered. Persuading consumers to search through Foursquare instead of, for example, Yelp, Google Maps or Siri, might be a taller order.