SMBs Stay Optimistic on Yelp ‘Check-ins,’ Foursquare

yelpcheckinsA New York City optometrist has been testing Yelp’s “Check-in Offers” since the platform went live six weeks ago and – somewhat predictably – has seen very modest results. Dr. Justin Bazan, owner of Park Slope Eye, said that even though his staff encourages check-ins, they’ve been few and far between.

“A lot less than expected,” he told ClickZ. “Only a few per week check in. Only a [few] have actually claimed the check-in offer. I do feel that as the awareness grows, it will take off. More businesses need to utilize it, and do a better job of promoting it. It’s not just enough to offer one, you have to promote it.”

Bazan and his team have advertised three check-in offers on their Yelp page, while pushing the promotions with posts/tweets on Park Slope Eye’s Facebook page (1,100 “likes”) and Twitter account (3,700 followers). Here’s a rundown of the rewards they’ve offered for a single check-in:

– $100 towards a pair of glasses

– A gift certificate for $25 to a nearby beer specialty store called Bierkraft

– One free container of lip balm (retailed at $1.15)

For the last few months, Park Slope Eye has also been campaigning via Foursquare and Facebook Places. “Again, the response has been a lot less than expected,” Bazan said. Even though check-ins have been infrequent, the optometrist said he thinks that location-based marketing will become increasingly important to local/small businesses.

“There is a lot of potential,” he said. “I habitually check in to places that I patronize. I think the potential is going to come in a few different areas. One is to increase sales by enticing them to buy a product at a reduced cost that they might not have done for full price. Two is to increase sales by mobile users choosing to patronize a business for a check-in special… [Lastly, you can] build loyalty by rewarding a guest for checking in.”

Foursquare Numbers Encourage Chelsea Piers to ‘Check In’ With Yelp

Park Slope Eye is one of a growing number of New York City businesses working on their geo-social marketing chops, while they wait for consumers to adopt smartphone app-based platforms in bigger numbers. For instance, Chelsea Piers began leveraging Foursquare in the fall and has had 1,000 unique users check in. All told, the fitness and fun mega-center’s Foursquare page has tallied nearly 5,000 check-ins.

“We will be looking to leverage Yelp’s new platform based on the experience we’ve had so far with Foursquare,” said Dana Thayer, SVP marketing and sponsorship for Chelsea Piers. “Check-ins are like brand ambassadors. If you are bothering to check in and say you are exercising at Chelsea Piers, it’s an advertisement for our gym.”

An example of Chelsea Piers’ recent Foursquare offers: People checking in to the golf club/driving range have been rewarded with a $5 ball card. Another: Health club “mayors” get to bring a friend to the club. Guest passes are normally $50.

“This is a way for us to jump into the social conversation and reward our customers,” Thayer explained. “We have had a couple forays into this, and we are still playing with it…We also find that people’s comments after checking in on Foursquare is 99 percent positive, which is obviously very valuable to us.”

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