GroupTabs, a new New York City-based startup, is offering yet another twist on location-based social networking services. Like media darling Foursquare, the mobile application incorporates the idea of checking in to a local business or venue, but uses those check-ins specifically to offer special deals.
However, unlike Foursquare's own partnerships with major brands like Starbucks and Ann Taylor, for example, GroupTabs' deals are just for local businesses, and are only provided when enough people check in to get the deal, a business model similar to that of group-buying service Groupon.
Why Check In? Deals, Deals, Deals
The GroupTabs service addresses one of the drawbacks with the current crop of so-called social check-in apps. Besides the ego-boost of earning badges, points, stamps and virtual "mayorships" (the title for the Foursquare user with the most check-ins at a particular venue), some can't see the value in checking in if it doesn't come with tangible rewards.
Plenty of startups are attacking this angle with their own offerings, from the major players Foursquare, Gowalla, Brightkite and Loopt with their brand partnerships, to WeReward and its pay-you-to-check-in model to Topguest and its travel rewards program to Shopkick and its mobile deal alerts, this last one requiring in-store hardware that verifies the check-in.
GroupTabs, however, thinks it has the winning combination with its group discounts program. For those who have never heard of Foursquare or Gowalla or LBS, (location-based services) the idea is easy to grasp - and sell. Check in for a deal. Daily deals - New York City-only to start - are published on the service's main site, and while achieving a critical mass to get the group deal is the goal, side deals will be provided to users who check in prior to the tipping point.
The tipping point is not hard to reach, either. The company won't require hundreds or thousands to check in before the deal is achieved - it will be closer to a dozen, or maybe 20 or 30, although the exact number is set by the merchant. Merchants can also put a cap on deals, too, if they would like.
Not Another Location-Based App, Supports Foursquare & Others
More importantly, explains GroupTabs' Josh Malin, the service isn't trying to replace your current preferred check-in application. "We'll automatically check you in to your existing LBS accounts," he explains. At launch, GroupTabs will support Foursquare, but Brightkite and Gowalla are arriving shortly. Twitter and Facebook integration is also supported.
Another distinction between GroupTabs and the rest is that GroupTabs thinks the key to its success is in partnering with actual brick-and-mortar local businesses, not brands. Malin says he sees value with brand partnerships, but that's just not what GroupTabs is after.
Native Apps and Future Plans
The service, which goes live next Wednesday, is accepting registrations as of today. For now, it works as an HTML-based Web app available at gtb.me. By launch, a native Android app will be available and hopefully its Blackberry counterpart. Ironically, the Web app works best on the iPhone, so its native application will be last to launch, instead of the first, as is usually the case with mobile companies.
The native applications will offer a similar streamlined user interface as the Web app, but will not allow for background check-ins, just push notifications. (Currently, SMS is used to alert you when a deal goes live). Future iterations will incorporate social networking features - namely the ability to see which of your friends RSVPd to a deal, a feature which indicates interest.
If the business model proves successful, GroupTabs plans on expansion to other major urban markets, like Philadelphia, Boston or West Coast cities like San Francisco.
For now, interested parties in New York City can bookmark gtb.me in their mobile phone's browser.