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Foursquare Uses Big Data to Connect Small Businesses to Local Customers

Recommendation sites like Yelp have become a major influence on what people end up buying when they search for goods and services. And while the results are very helpful, the recommendations on these sites are not personalized to the specific context of an individual’s circumstances. The “one review fits all” model works well, but Foursquare is looking to bring more context to the apps’ recommendations to make them more meaningful to each person.

Nina Yiamsamatha, a member of Foursquare’s small business marketing team, recently shared with me how the new app is helping local businesses connect with customers in a more personalized way.

When a lot of people think of recommendations, they think of sites like Yelp. How is the new Foursquare app different?

We think the future of global search is personalized. It isn’t just everyone getting the same thing. So when you go to Amazon, the book recommendations you get are very different from what I’d get. Same with Netflix. It really learns what movies and genres you love, and then based on that, will give you recommendations so you can have a better entertainment experience.

So, the new Foursquare app takes the same approach, but for places that you go to in the real world, and businesses that you frequent and that you want to be loyal to.

We have over 55,000,000 tips, which are short reviews that people have left, that are overwhelmingly positive and in my experience all about what’s great at businesses. We’ve looked at all of that data, and then were able to turn that into tastes. Your tastes are different and my tastes are different. I like fried pickles. Maybe you like organic food. So, what the new app does is learn what you like, and then, based on that, the app will lead you to places you love.

How do companies benefit from listing their businesses on Foursquare today?

[They benefit by] not only getting new customers in the door, but learning how to engage with them, because we do know when people have found your business through our app.

The first thing is to claim your business and take control of your listing. What you get for a $20 one-time fee, is the ability to control your information and update various details about your business such as whether you accept reservations, whether you have extra seating, or Wi-Fi, etc. You can add hours and customize your photos to look the best they can possibly look, and add all the possible information that you have so that people can easily find you.

For example, you can run a special to reward customers who go to your business. You can write a tip from Brent’s Barbeque in Atlanta, and tell people you are known for your pulled pork. And Foursquare can help deliver that to people before they’re even in the door. And then you also get access to analytics. So you can get to know your new customers, your top customers, as well as distribution over time of who’s coming in. That is very valuable information that you wouldn’t otherwise have.

It’s really about promoting your business to people nearby who are looking for places like yours. Say you love barbeque. You’re visiting Atlanta. You’ve been to barbeque places in New York where you live, but you’re hungry right now and want to find dinner. If you are promoting Brent’s Barbeque on Foursquare, you could show up at the top of my search results rather than lower or not at all, and it will surface your information that would be really appealing to me because Foursquare knows that I love barbeque. From there it boosts your visibility, and it’s showing to people in your area right now. And on top of that, when you advertise, you can see who is engaging with your ad. So people who click on the ad, and look at your directions, look at your menu, your photos, look through people’s tips that customers have left, look at your tips. You have all of that information now.


To learn more about how businesses use Foursquare to connect with customers go to AT

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