Facebook Ups The Mobile Ante Again; Buys Mobile Loyalty, Rewards Startup TagTile

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This just in: Facebook has closed another deal, and as with Instagram it’s in mobile again. They have bought TagTile, a mobile-based customer loyalty, management startup, for an undisclosed sum.

After the $1 billion, 40-million user blockbuster of Instagram, this looks like a return to the smaller, acqhire buys that Facebook is more known for making. “We’re happy to confirm that TagTile’s founders are joining Facebook, and that Facebook is acquiring substantially all of the company’s assets. We’ve admired the engineering team’s efforts for some time now and we’re excited to have them join Facebook,” the social network said in an emailed statement.

TagTile’s statement notes that Facebook is acquiring “substantially all of our assets.” It is not taking on any new customers but  for now it will continue its service.

The news comes the same day that Facebook kicked of a beta of a new offers service.

We wrote about TagTile last October when it launched a pilot program, having been a TechCrunch Disrupt Startup Alley participant. Like Square, the service gives away free hardware that lets merchants use the service, which works with an app either on Android or iOS and lets users collect and redeem loyalty points, coupons and other rewards a merchant wants to offer. The hardware, a little box-like object, is a stop-gap solution until NFC becomes more widespread.

Abheek Anand, co-founder, told us today that pilot has been going “really well.” Main customers on the pilot so far have been a mix of small- and medium-sized businesses, along with franchises, who either use the product to link up with their existing reward schemes, or to create one where it has not existed before.

What’s notable is that he says engagement has been impressive: he claims that the best comparison is with check-in services, and typically TagTile has found its app has been used anywhere between two and ten times more for interactions on a per-merchant basis than Foursquare.

Given that Facebook has just today (what a coincidence!) started a beta of a new offers program, you can imagine all of these pieces fitting together longer term — a fuller realization of the e-commerce/loyalty/social shopping that Facebook has been chipping away at for at least a year already. The service lets merchants put discounts and offers on their Facebook pages, which can be redeemed either through Facebook’s mobile app at the point of sale, or via an email. But with something like TagTile, you can see how Facebook can become more integrated into the actual transaction process, not just in the creation of the offer.

The new offers beta — first announced at the fMC marketing event this past February — is starting with a handful of clients in the U.S. It will also extend to a limited number of businesses in Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, Japan and Turkey, but is not yet going fully global or opening to all U.S. businesses. More details here.

Last point: A while ago, I wrote a post looking at the patents and patent applications that Facebook currently owns. Among them was a trove specifically related to e-commerce, which could either have been there for defensive purposes (buying in areas against where competitors have business) or for actual future products (like, say, mobile commerce solutions). As it turns out, TagTile also has patents that now become Facebook’s — although Anand wouldn’t say what they covered.