Foursquare Knows!

Here’s a blog post on Foursquare as promised!! 

As I had mentioned during my presentation last week, location technology is going to be at the core of the 4th industrial revolution and will play a key role in its advancement. From Apple and Google Maps to advanced mapping and tracking technology used by governments, everyday lives have changed and travelling around the world has become easier.  Location-aware tech, or location services tech, will be the foundation of other technologies in the upcoming future.  

In recent years, Foursquare has turned into a location data powerhouse. It has troves of information regarding where exactly phones go as well as what inferences can be made based on this data about the users. It has become a leading location technology company that recently acquired Unfolded, which is a next generation platform for geospatial analytics.

This acquisition will allow Foursquare to be the singular source companies turn to for high quality, easy to use location data whilst also providing the technology they need to make sense of it all.  These companies can then easily apply spatial features to solve critical businesses challenges.  

The retail industry, for example, can greatly benefit from such a technology since it currently lacks innovation for its customers.  Consumers thrive on customized shopping experience which makes them come back for more, especially in today’s uber-competitive retail environment.   This helps companies differentiate their business model through a non-traditional approach and also enables them to thrive rather than survive in this competitive environment.  Some companies have already started using location tech to enhance their consumer experience. Adidas’ flagship store, located on Oxford Street in London, uses technology that allows the customers to select desired in-store items prior to entering the store.  As soon as they walk through the door, a staff member walks over to them with their previously selected merchandise (thanks to location tech!).  The customer can then try on the items and make changes to the original selection.  This eliminates the mindless perusing through the stores only to find that the store doesn’t carry the product. Not only does it save the customer the hassle of locating a product they had seen online amongst the various aisles and shelves that are in the brick-and-mortar store, they also don’t have to wait for the sales associates to bring out their sizes.  

Foursquare is also using its data to help companies and advertisers target desired demographics and interest groups , so as to optimize campaign targeting.  Foursquare recently partnered with Clear Channel Outdoor, one of the world’s leading out-of-home media companies. The two companies are providing advertisers with information and access to performance data enabling them to make real-time adjustments to DOOH ads, ensuring they are reaching the right people at the right time. 

  • DOOH – Digital out of home 

Optimization of DOOH will allow them to reach more consumers, have a more effective advertising campaign, and will help drive in more revenue.  Foursquare and Clear Channel Outdoor’s customers will be able to access detailed summary metrics on ad performance based on location and time of day, allowing them to make real-time changes rather than wait till the end of the day and then figure out how to restructure future ad campaigns.  This program will generate time stamped ad-run logs that will then be able to provide information such as who saw the ad and where they were when they saw it.  Granular data points, calculated using dwell point, direction of travel and speed of travel, allow them to see if the ad was truly seen.  They also provide a more holistic view of the brand’s campaign performance by reporting across different media channels and making that information available to them. 

Location technology will allow them to determine whether the customer that was “exposed” to their ad took any specific action towards the brand, i.e. visited the store.  It also enables the understanding of demographics and behavioral attributes of their targeted consumer. 

Think Times Square – the advertisements that are displayed on screen will vary based on time of day and week.  The demographic targeted Monday morning will be different from the crowd present at Times Square on Friday at 1 AM.  

Foursquare segments consumers based off of activities and habits.  Below are a few segmentations from the Foursquare’s website: 

 For a man aged 45-49, in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, Foursquare can use data about which shops, bars, and other buildings the man visits regularly to assign “personas,” which then can be used by advertisers to target the user more effectively. Because Foursquare can tell the man visited AT&T Stadium between 7 and 10:30 pm, and he stopped by Harry’s Sports Bar last week, Foursquare has him pegged as a “Sports Lover.” Similarly, Foursquare says the man’s visit to Pepper’s Grill between 5 and 6:30 pm—his second trip to the establishment this week, it notes—confirms the “Casual Diner” persona.

The man is also labeled a “Super Saver,” because of his visits to the local Dollar Store and Shopper Town Warehouse; a “Coffee Drinker,” thanks to a stop at a “local bakery cafe,” which was combined with data showing that he “also frequents Cafe Joe’s twice a week”; and a “Small Business Owner,” as he visits a shop called Dave’s Auto Repair daily between 8:30 am and 2:30 pm

While this technology has become integral to various industries, it isn’t without its drawbacks. Privacy, security and compliance issues will continue to be at the center of every discussion with both consumer privacy and ethics driven tech regulations. There is a significant apprehension about misuse of personal information and a concern that the information will fall into the wrong hands. Just as I mentioned at the end of my presentation, these technological advances have made our lives more convenient and has personalized our shopping experience but at what cost? 

Here are a couple of articles I found interesting that go into depth on privacy concerns and discuss previous privacy infractions by certain apps:

And here is an interview with the CEO of Foursquare.


  1. Christina S · ·

    Really interesting! I would be so curious to learn what their findings are around the impact of these new advertising efforts, and how accurate the personas are/what other correlations they’re finding between personas and buying patterns or preferences. Like how accurately have they pegged the “casual dining, coffee drinking, cafe-frequenting, small business owning, sports lover” and where do they take that information next. Also will be interested in how push notifications/alerts will start to impact buying patterns and preferences. One hotel I was working with a few years ago was throwing out the idea of having location-specific push notifications that would reach potential job applicants as they passed by the hotel; I imagine that could be a cool way to reach people, but could also result in an overflow of information and eventually being tuned out by the target audiences

    1. It would like to see other companies give out location specific push notifications for jobs available in the area! I can see how that might be an overflow of information but if there is an option to opt in or opt out (depending on if you’re looking for a job or not) it would be really helpful for those seeking different employment opportunities.

      As far as how well they categorized user personas, from the research I conducted it seemed to be accurate but not 100% correct. This new technology needs to be further refined to improve accuracy!

  2. Kanal Patel · ·

    When reading this post, I was thinking of “Big Brother.” It is quite scary that with the increase in mobile and location services, foursquare could potentially have the access to data about everyone, everywhere, anytime. Where we go and when we go shows a lot about our daily habits – I wonder if this is too much data for one company to have. But of course, I also understand the positive aspects of this as well which you have mentioned in the post.

  3. llamadelmar · ·

    I have some concerns around location services technology since we’ve seen that some companies are not using this information in the most ethical way. I understand the importance of being able to see how many people may have been exposed to the advertisement but there should be a different way to get this information without diving into people’s location services technology. Personally, when asked in an application if they can use my GPS location, I typically opt for the “Only when using this App” option.

  4. Great post! The founder of Foursquare did a talk fir the Shea center earlier this semester.

    1. It was a great session — Dennis is a sharp cookie (and a local guy originally!)

  5. cloudbasedbrett · ·

    Foursquare used to be a social check-in app that allowed your friends to see where you were hanging out. You’d receive points based on “check-ins” when you got to places and you could even get a discount on products when you checked in. A few of my friends still use something similar, and it is powered by foursquare but it wasn’t called foursquare. I thought the company went under, but apparently, they found a better way to use their technology. Really cool post and presentation to show the underlying technology of our mapping system and so many other useful applications!

    1. Tanker 2 Banker · ·

      That’s exactly what I remember Foursquare to be too. So I appreciated this update on the company’s capabilities and direction. A feature that I think should be included is if a location is closed for whatever reason, then related businesses should appear next to the listing to recommend alternatives based upon proximity to the user.

      1. That would be a really cool and helpful feature for sure!

    2. I was an avid Foursquare user when they had the whole check-in and badges thing going on — and *so many* of my friends used it, as well. The gamification on it was spot on — really fun and useful.

      But then they split the app into FourSquare which was supposed to be more Yelp like and Swarm which I think was supposed to be like old FourSquare? I don’t know, I stopped using it and so did everyone I know.

  6. I think this new technology can be very exciting and helpful for a lot of marketers! But as others have said, the constant tracking on where I am, where I go, at what time, how long am I there for, and so on, can definitely be a bit much. I think it could work okay if you’re using Google Maps to take you somewhere, but always tracking seems to be a bit too far.

  7. Great follow up to your presentation! I think that its no surprise that my data especially location is being constantly tracked, however people like my dad are shocked by it. He often remarks that even without social media his information is on the internet (of course!). I think the big thing to watch in this arena is any updates that will hopefully come on the outdated 1990’s FCC law’s or any agency action in new rule making.

  8. bccryptoassets · ·

    Yes, in addition to several of the comments here, how safe should we feel being tracked. Do you see any other innovations resurrecting Foursquare? Will the Big Tech controversy impact Foursquare, and how so? I personally don’t care much about where my data goes. It’s in the hands of most companies in one way or another, but what about those still paranoid of allowing apps to track you and have access to your information.

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