Foursquare, Gowalla, Brightkite, Whrrl, TriOut, Loopt and others are all the rage these days, even earning magazine cover stories about the so-called "check-in wars," as different companies fight to win this space the way Facebook won the desktop.If you're an early adopter, you've not doubt heard of (and probably even use) mobile "check-in" applications. Popular location-based services like
But after spending a few weeks "checking in" at every venue, bar, restaurant or club you visit, the excitement wears off and a question comes to mind: "why am I doing this?" you may ask yourself. The rewards are, in most cases, minimal: a point, a badge, a meaningless "mayorship" that's soon stolen away and the occasional mobile coupon. Do any of these things make check-ins worthwhile?
What would? A new service called Topguest may have the answer.
Why Check In?
Topguest, a new service that integrates with exciting check-in applications, thinks it has the answer to the question "why check in?," at least for frequent travelers. "Checking in" could be the new travel rewards program, if Topguest has its way.
Instead of following Foursquare's footsteps and partnering with pop culture sensations like Bravo and MTV, for example, or WSJ for news and tips from around the city, Topguest wants to link your existing travel rewards programs to your mobile check-ins. To do so, it links with well-known check-in services like Foursquare, Gowalla, Google Latitude, Loopt, Yelp and even Twitter (just turn on geo-location for your tweets!) More services are coming in the near future, too, including those based outside the U.S.
"Check in" to your hotel with the service of your choice and you could earn hotel reward points. Check in to your flight and earn miles. You don't need to download another app, or check in a second time with Topguest.
But that's not all - Topguest is working on pairing physical check-ins with virtual check-ins, too. Check in at the ticket counter for your flight and earn extra points via its service, no Foursquare required.
Topguest: The Middleman for LBS and Travel Rewards Services?
To kick of its launch, Topguest has partnered with the high-end hotel chain, Standard Hotels, offering a program where four hotel stays in a week equate to a free week at one of its properties. Plus, after 10 check-ins, Topguest users can also earn 25% discounts on future reservations, in-hotel dining or cocktails plus boutique and spa discounts as well.
But while the Standard Hotels partnership is limited to only four hotels in Miami, New York, Hollywood and Downtown L.A., this is only the beginning for Topguest.
Next month, the company is announcing several more partnerships with existing reward programs, including three of largest travel programs in world, hotels and airlines included. Plus, the company has already fielded inquiries from over thirty additional travel rewards brands to date.
Topguest is poised to become the middleman between location-based services (LBS) and travel rewards programs.
Will Frequent Travelers Like This? Short Answer: Yes
For frequent travelers, the service will have broad appeal as it's not trying to serve as a replacement for traditional point-collecting means, it supplements them. And who doesn't want extra points? The company is working with partners to distribute these extra points to its users, in addition to offering additional rewards that couldn't be had elsewhere. For example, frequent fliers that use the same airline could earn access into the private VIP lounge, even if they don't pay for that upgrade. Those who regularly choose a particular hotel chain could be targeted with exclusive deals. This goes beyond traditional loyalty programs - this is on-the-spot loyalty rewards.
Serving a Niche: LBS' Future?
While not everyone is a frequent flier or business traveler in need of collecting rewards like these, it's an attractive - and frankly, wide open - niche for a service to get into. Check-ins plus travel rewards just makes sense. And unlike Foursquare, which seemingly rewards you for being a creature of habit by distributing badges and so-called "mayorships" to frequent visitors of the same venue, Topguest rewards you (with actual rewards, mind you) for going somewhere besides your local Starbucks.
And Topguest is far from being the only LBS company to figure out that serving a niche audience may be the best way yet to attract users. Take TriOut, for example. It's an entire location-based service for just the "Triangle" region (the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill metro area in North Carolina). Or the recently launched hyperlocal network DeHood, which focuses on neighborhood-level check-ins and tips. Or Miso, the check-in service for TV and movie addicts.
It seems serving a niche is where LBS is seeing the most innovation these days. Standalone check-in apps are just the platform on which that innovation will take place.
Interested users can sign up now with Topguest here. Next month, the service will publicly launch with more partnerships.