The feature was not made generally accessible to most retailers. At the time I inquired of Google when it would be available more widely and if it was free or paid. Google provided their all too frequent “We’ll let you know if and when we have more details to share” response.
I managed to uncover some additional Mobile Check-Ins details in this recent Google Places Help Page:
Coupons: Mobile Check-in Offers
When users for businesses using Google for mobile devices, they’ll be able to access your Google Places Offer on their phone. You can also offer special deals to visitors if they check in online when they visit your business. Instead of printing out a paper coupon, customers can simply bring in their mobile device to redeem the offer — which means it’s a great and simple way to save trees, too!
All Google Places offers are created in both mobile and desktop formats, so all you have to do is create an offer. If you’d like to offer a check-in option, simply select the appropriate type of customer in the “Target customers” field when you create the offer.
If you don’t want to distribute your offers via mobile phones, you can turn off the mobile feature by following the instructions below:
- Click Offers at the top of your Google Places account.
- Click Edit next to the offer on the dashboard to edit an existing offer.
- Deactivate the mobile phone format by un-checking the mobile coupon box.
By adding more than just the basic elements, you invite customers to interact with your listing. As a result, you may find that more customers are compelled to write a review or share the listing with a friend.
Who knows when these features will be real but it would appear from the above that:
- The Check-in offers feature will move to general availability for all businesses
- That it will be likely be free
- That if will offer some sort of demographic targeting that is not yet available generally.
Yesterday Google announced the integration of Latitude and ratings with Google Maps on the Android allowing check in directly from a businesse’s mobile Places page. Late last fall Google leveraged their existing mobile apps to increase their presence in the review market. Usage seems to have climbed dramatically with Google noting that they now have over 200 million active users on their mobile Google Maps product.
It would seem that the path of Google is clear. Up to this point Latitude has been a non starter in the check-in world. Google has slowly been making it more functional providing long term value and ease of use to the product with auto check ins and deals. With such active and engaged mobile review users it would make sense that Google would leverage that user base and integrate both Latitude and Check-ins across the board making both features immediately available to the whole mobile population currently using the Google Maps and Places products. As a part of that strategy it will be critical to build the inventory of check-in offers.
The strategy of competing effectively by adding features to a popular Maps product is a strategy that has worked for them before on the desktop and one that might work again as they compete against the Yelp’s and FourSqaures of the world.