The location check-in was so 2009. Well not exactly, like many, I suspect location-based services will eventually live up to their hype in the mobile arena. However, the geo-location check-in just scratches the surface. The product check-in is next.
On Friday, Booyah's MyTown unveiled a new software update that will let users check-in to physical, real world products. Booyah is not the first to come to market with the idea of checking into a product or activity- other services like Miso and Hot Potato allow users to check into a wide array of “products” like television shows, movies, and online activities.
However, MyTown is one of the first LBS apps where you can use bar codes to check into a dress at a department store or a box of Kleenex at your neighborhood grocery store. If this initiative takes off with MyTown's 2.5 million users (yes, that's more than Foursquare), Booyah will have a valuable mountain of consumer data and a bevy of marketing partners eager to tap into the power of the product check-in. A few retail partners have already signed up. Booyah is preparing to announce a major product check-in partnership in August, with a mystery (and reportedly, very large) consumer products company.
“Location is just a way to drive them to the store, but ultimately people want to actually be able to sell products, so this is one step away, getting closer to the finish line to point of sale.” Booyah's founder Keith Lee says. “And that's really where we want to go in terms of validating activities that you do in the real world.”
MyTown's product check-in is currently available exclusively on the iPhone and iPod. Using the camera option, a user simply scans a barcode on a retail product. Within one second, MyTown recognizes the code and unlocks any points, virtual goods or promotions associated with the product. Thus, the product check-in provides an extra layer of gaming over MyTown's universe. For those who have never played MyTown, it's basically an augmented reality version of Monopoly. Users check into real world locations to unlock virtual rewards, they have the option to “purchase” their favorite properties, collect rent from others and update those properties. Furthermore, like Foursquare, you can see where your friends are checking-in and access real-world discounts.
Inevitably, other LBS startups will attack the product check-in category, but until then, MyTown provides a unique way for businesses to interact with the consumer. Lee says partners will be able to craft challenges, including scavenger hunts, and offer special real world promotions or discounts through the service. In a way, it's an ad that incentivizes the consumer to reach out.
On the analytics end, there's a wealth of information that's probably comparable to Blippy, a social service that aggregates a consumer's purchase data. Through MyTown, a business will be able to learn about the interests of its consumers, which products they find attractive and how they interact with a retailers' competitors. The real hurdle here is getting users to embrace the mechanics of the product check-in, the extra step it takes to scan an item, and to get them to do it often enough that it matters.