Thursday, July 21, 2011

On loyalty, Foursquare, biometrics, and smart phones

Yes, I got cranky about this whole Foursquare/mobile web thing.


It start when Jake Kuramoto wrote this post. It takes about how Facebook is available for phones other than smart phones, noting in passing that the majority of phones are NOT smart phones.

This moved me to comment as follows:

As someone who updates my Facebook status via SMS updates, and as someone who is now a FORMER Foursquare user because I am no longer allowed to compete for mayorships, I'm obviously appreciative of these moves by Facebook. While one can make the argument that "dumbphone" customers aren't as valuable as smartphone customers, any business that depends upon overall market share should certainly take the necessary steps to reach as wide an audience as possible - and iOS plus Android is not all that wide an audience.

When Jake asked me why I was unable to compete for Foursquare mayorships, I linked to Foursquare's explanation of what you can and cannot do on the mobile web.

Which brings me to Pay By Touch. See the last paragraph of this Empoprise-IE post for an explanation of Pay By Touch. Have you read it? Good, let's continue.

I still remember when I discovered that Hutch Carpenter used to work for Pay By Touch. I discovered this when I read Carpenter's post on loyalty programs, in which he noted, in part:

A few years back, I was the personalized marketing product manager at Pay By Touch, which offered the ability to pay for items with biometrics (i.e. your finger). Once you could identify the customer and her spending, interesting loyalty program solutions became available.

Carpenter went on to speak about Foursquare and Square, the latter being Jack Dorsey's company. While Square represents itself as a simple way to accept credit cards, Square also touts its ability to connect with customers. And Foursquare also offers this ability, since they collect a lot of data (although perhaps they could use it more efficiently).

But times change. Pay By Touch is no more. Its technology supplier, Cogent Systems (DISCLOSURE: A COMPETITOR OF MY EMPLOYER), is now part of 3M. But Carpenter's thoughts still hold water, and even I am forced to admit that Foursquare knows more about someone who checks in with an app than they do about someone who checks in via the mobile web. And theoretically, Foursquare could ensure that the person using the app is who they say they are via biometrics. I say "theoretically" because I seriously doubt that many Foursquare users would be willing to provide Foursquare with their biometric information. And Foursquare's real customers - the businesses who advertise via Foursquare - aren't going to be willing to force Foursquare users to provide biometrics.

But it does get you thinking.
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