On Tuesday, Foursquare, the location-based mobile platform, released the third version of their application. The most notable change in this new version is the addition of an Explore tab that delivers personalized, location-based recommendations.
The idea behind the Explore tab is, as Dennis Crowley, Foursquare’s co-founder and CEO, wrote in a blog post announcing Foursquare 3.0, “tell us what you’re looking for and we’ll help you find something nearby.” For example, a user can search “chocolate ice cream” and Foursquare will return recommendations for the best chocolate ice cream place near you.
The recommendations are based off of many data inputs such as “the places you’ve been, the places your friends have visited, your loyalty to your favorite places, the categories and types of places you gravitate towards, what’s popular with other users, the day of the week, places with great tips, the time of day, and so on,” Crowley said. This means the chocolate ice cream that Foursquare recommends to me will not necessarily be the same place as it recommends to you.
The major breakthroughs Foursquare accomplished with 3.0 was that they have transformed their check-in service into a mobile recommendation service and have tied back the value of using Foursquare into something clearly tangible for users. The mobile recommendation piece is very clever since a user can immediately gain value from using Foursquare without needing to build a history of check-ins or a network of Foursquare friends. While you don’t need to check-in to gain value from Foursquare, the service gets incrementally better with every check-in you do.
The other way Foursquare crushed it with this new version is showing the value a user gets from checking in. The previous value to checking in was sharing that information with friends, getting deals, getting badges, and becoming mayor. These tactics worked extremely well to date to the point that every service was now trying to come out with a badge, but would limit Foursquare to having a user base in the millions instead of the tens and hundreds millions of users.
Throughout the new product, Foursquare reminds the user that checking in will help them. The Explore tab makes clear that recommendations come from checking in. Want better recommendations? Check in!
Foursquare also further gamified the experience to encourage check-ins. They took a latent feature of points per check-in and surfaced them in two ways. The competition happening between friends after every check-in has become a competition, and is also a strong motivational tool in the way that there’s a clear and explicit goal. Foursquare now shows users point goals to hit for seven day periods of time. In doing so they have artificially created a need for users to complete something, reach the point goal, where before there was nothing to complete.
Foursquare’s rapid growth and comparatively large user base has given them the information needed to deliver this first edition of customized recommendations.