Google+ To Take On Foursquare With Upcoming “Check-in Offers” Feature

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It looks like Google+ is adding a feature that will allow users to “check-in” via the Google+ mobile application in order to receive a time-sensitive deal or discount. This feature is mentioned in Google Places’s help documentation, but has not yet been made available to business owners using the Google Places service.

Google check-ins have a confusing history, it has to be said.

To be clear, the ability to check in via Google+ is not new.

Google’s location-based social service Google Latitude launched checkins in February, prior to the launch of Google+. And when Google+ arrived on mobile, it offered a check-in feature of its own, seemingly based on Latitude, which pulls up a list of nearby Google Places.

Google Latitude also allows you to sync your Latitude check-ins with Google+, as Google explains here. Other documentation refers to check-in offers for Latitude users (link), but again, nothing that specifically says these offers will show up for users checking in on Google+.

Whew!

Yeah, it’s kind of a big ol’ mess right now.

Google probably should have killed off Latitude when Google+ launched to avoid this kind of confusion. Maybe it still will. After all, now you can checkin on Google+ and there are so many other places to find Google’s Offers, including the Google Shopper application (iOS/Android), the Google Offers application for Android, and the Google Offers website.

And soon, apparently, Google+.

The new help documentation was spotted by Mike Blumental, who also notes that Google has recently started cracking down on businesses whose offers don’t include a real discount of some sort. Business owners are receiving emails explaining that offers should provide “a monetary discount or an additional good or service that is not normally included.” (That’s per the Offers Guidelines here.)

As for the forthcoming Google+ check-in offers, here’s the Help Documentation that explains how Google+ users can receive the deal or discount. It reads (emphasis mine):

If your customers have to visit your locations in order to do business with you, you can request that they check-in on Google+ in order to redeem your offers. They can choose to share the check-in publicly or with some of their circles, which helps spread the word about your business on Google+. They can also choose to keep their check-in private and still redeem an offer.

Again, this is not a “Google Places” check-in offer or a “Google Latitude” check-in offer being discussed here, it’s a “Google+” check-in offer.

So is this new? It appears so, because the option for a business owner to actually include the Google+ check-in offer hasn’t yet gone live within the Offers tab of Google Places, which is here such things are maintained. This is what it looks like now (see below):

This all seems to imply that Google+ is going to soon encourage more check-ins through the integration of check-in deals and discounts, similar to Foursquare. It’s an obvious next move, of course, but it’s good to see it all confirmed in black & white…help documentation.

UPDATE: It appears Google has taken down the Help page referenced in this article. 

Prior to removal, the page also included the following text (thanks Bing cache!):

If your customers do not have to visit your location, for example if you serve homes or businesses by delivery or by callouts, you can keep this option off (set to “No”) and customers will not be asked to check-in when they redeem offers. We use the Service Areas and Location Settings setting on your listing to determine if you have a service area for offers that have already been created. When you create new offers, you can choose whether to allow a check-in during redemption.

What is a check-in?

A check-in is a way that a customer can chose to note that they are at a specific place. Some people share check-ins to tell friends about businesses that they visit. Some people check-in privately (instead of sharing this information with friends) so they can track businesses they have visited.

How can check-ins help my business?

Check-ins are a good way to promote your business online. It’s like an online tool for word of mouth advertising. It also associates the use of an offer with your physical location which helps connect customers both online and offline.

Will other people see my customers’ check-ins to my business?

Your customers will choose who see their check-ins. If check-ins are public, anyone can see them. If check-ins are shared with a circle, a smaller group such as the family or coworkers will see them. If check-ins are private, only the customer can see them.

If I require a check-in to redeem an offer, do people have to check-in?

Customers who use Google products that support offers and check-ins will be required to check-in when they redeem an offer. However, if they use a product that does not support check-ins (such as printing out an offer from their desktop using Google Maps), they will not be asked to check-in.

What kinds of businesses should allow check-ins when redeeming?

If customers must come into your place of business to do business with you, particularly to pay for goods and services, you should allow check-ins. This includes most businesses like:

Restaurants
Cafes
Shops
Gyms

If customers do not need to come in, even if it is only in some circumstances, you should not request a check-in. This includes offers for:

Delivery businesses like pizza delivery or office supply delivery
Services like plumbers, roofers, and carpet cleaners
Businesses where orders can be placed and paid via phone or internet, such as a florist