Back in January, we noted that Loopt was sending around a deck to advertisers showing off a new product. The product was focused on check-in specials (the kind popularized by Foursquare) and was entirely built on top of Facebook’s social graph. Finally, nearly 6 months later, that app is here.
Loopt Star is in some ways a simplified version of Loopt’s regular location-based service. Rather than being a service that is continually updating your location in the background, the focus here is only on the idea of the check-in. And naturally, those check-ins take place at specific venues — some of which Loopt has deals in place with to coincide with the launch of the new app. We’re talking big, national brands such as Gap, Burger King, and Universal Music.
Loopt Star is sort of like a “virtual loyalty card,” is the way co-founder Sam Altman describes it. “As you go about the world and check-in, you get discounts and free stuff,” is the simplified way he puts it.
The way Loopt pitched it to advertisers is interesting. Those guys are familiar with the “cost per impression” model of advertising, so Loopt described this as being a more valuable “cost per visit” model. This is basically the same idea that another location-based service, Whrrl, has been trying to sell to advertisers (pay-per-visit). It’s about “driving foot traffic,” Altman says.
Along with foot traffic in stores, retailers get to brand themselves their way in the app, with their own logos. These can be used to reward Loopt Star users with special achievements — similar to the Foursquare “badge” model.
Loopt Star will launch with four brands Altman says, but the service will add about two a week after that, so the company can put a special system in place to ensure there’s no fraud or gaming of this system. Obviously that’s a concern when these partners are giving away free and discounted goods.
The most interesting aspect to all of this though may be the use of Facebook Connect. Altman says Loopt has used several features from the new Open Graph to build this app. And that the plan is to use Facebook’s social structure for all Loopt products going forward. The new ability for third-parties to cache data was the key to Loopt switching over, Altman says.
While Facebook has clearly been working on its own check-in based solution, Altman expects it to be more of a basic feature, and believes the social network will be more interested in federating check-ins from all the other services already out there. If true, this should help Loopt and its competitors gain even more users.
Loopt Star will be iPhone-only at first, but it will eventually roll out to all the other major mobile platforms.
Update: And below, find a video Robert Scoble took of Altman showing off Loopt Star.