Location based services are catching on in India, with companies realizing that there is in fact benefit in rewarding loyal customers. And, location based services are of course, good ways of keeping track of who exactly your loyal customers are. Foursquare launched in 2009 as a simple “check-in and become mayor” service. Loyalty points were badges and it was very easy to become mayor of a place. Now of course, they've reported having 7 million users (as of March 2011) and they've had to increase loyalty posts to more than just one mayor of a place. Many restaurants and shops give away loyalty freebies to their Foursquare mayors.
Now of course, Facebook saw this and wanted their own finger in the pie. They announced Places in August 2010 where users could 'check in to Facebook' from whatever location they were in. Facebook then announced 'Deals' which was a subset of places that included restaurants and shops that users could check into and earn loyalty points.
So Foursquare versus Facebook, which one do you choose?
The battle of the location beasts
So far, between the two location based services, Foursquare is the only one in India that restaurants and bars have used to reward members. Cafe Coffee Day in Bangalore started Foursquare rewards for their loyal customers and Blue Frog in Mumbai have given away free tickets to concerts to their Foursquare mayors in the past. Facebook Places (and Deals) is of course, newer and so far hasn't been used to reward loyalty. However, Facebook is a more wide reaching social network. This could work in its benefit as well as against it. For starters, small restaurants that really want more publicity should use a service like Places to reach out to Facebook users but if a certain place already has good customer traction, they may want to control the madness by limiting rewards to Foursquare customers.
One nice thing about Foursquare is that it can be used on the web. You can't check in anymore on the site but you can create a new place and make to do lists on the website. Facebook Places is not accessible on the web. When Places first came out, it used a lot of Facebook's features to make the experience more rich i.e. friends' comments and recommendations. Foursquare integrated this and went a step further where friends can share pictures of their checked in events. The features of both the services are now very similar with a few minute differences that can swerve your preferences based on your preferences themselves.
Right now, Foursquare has more places to check in to than Facebook for two reasons. One's the obvious one, it's been around longer. Two, more users have added places to Foursquare for check in. Places right now depends on Google for locations which in India, isn't the most accurate.
So right now, the obvious winner is the littler guy, Foursquare. However, if more smaller companies here realize the value of rewarding Facebook check ins, Places is sure to start beating Foursquare. Or at least matching it head on. What do you prefer? Let us know in the comments section below.