SiliconFilter

As Check-Ins Fizzle Out, Gowalla Pivots

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Check-in services like Gowalla and Foursquare were the most hyped kinds of apps of 2010, but for the most part, it has become pretty clear that mainstream users don’t care a lot about checking in. It makes sense then, that Gowalla today announced a major reshuffling of its feature set at TechCrunch’s Disrupt conference in San Francisco today. Instead of focussing on checking in, the new Gowalla now puts an emphasis on sharing “stories” and building travel logs. Also among the new features are “guides,” which are “curated travel guides for numerous cities around the world.”

Just a few weeks ago, Gowalla also announced that it was planning to jettison most of its gaming features. The company clearly saw that its current feature set didn’t allow it to compete with FourSquare, which has become the largest player in this space (even though it, too, doesn’t have a lot of mainstream traction).

A Small Pivot for Gowalla – A Harbinger for the Check-In Space

What seems like a small pivot is actually a harbinger for the check-in space in general. Checking in is, at best, a feature and can’t be the central focus of a service as only a small minority of potential users will bother to check in when they get to a new location. What users do want to do, though, is to share photos (also a feature that the new Gowalla highlights) and their stories.

Gowalla’s move sounds like a smart pivot away from the basic check-in model and towards a more sustainable and interesting concept. Gowalla already had some travel-focused features in its earlier incarnations, but this new version pushes these ideas further. Thanks to these earlier features, Gowalla also has a number of partnerships with companies like National Geographic that will now also become partners around its “guides” feature.



7:21 pm


Beyond the Check-In Hype: Unmotivated Users [Infographic]

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Silicon Valley often falls in love with ideas that work great for geeks, early adopters and Robert Scoble. These ideas, however, often leave mainstream users cold. Check-in-based location sharing services like Foursquare, Gowalla and Co. are one of the most recent examples of this. The good folks behind the Social-Loco conference (which incidentally starts tomorrow) teamed up with digital agency Beyond to take a closer look at what could motivate consumers to start using these products. Today, according to these companies’ research, almost 50% of those who currently don’t use check-in apps simply have no motivation for doing so.

So what would motivate these users? According to this study then, if location-based services really want to get new users onto their services, they will have to focus on coupons for restaurants and cafes, or give users info about homes that are for sale in their area and tourist info about cities they visit. While most check-in apps focus on making it easier for users to find friends, the majority of mainstream consumers is not interested in this. Only 12% would be motivated to use a check-in app for this. Looking a bit deeper, it’s also worth noting that mainstream consumers are more likely to use Facebook Places, Groupon and Twitter (55%, 40% and 20% respectively) than Foursquare and its startup brethren.

Virtual Badges and Becoming Mayor? Mainstream Users Don’t Care

It’s interesting that all these features that non-users say would motivate them to check in are already available in numerous products. Maybe, at the end of the day, checking in is simply too much of a hassle and maybe getting a coupon somewhere just isn’t worth the trouble for most people. Only 1% of mainstream users, by the way, said getting a virtual badge or becoming “mayor” would motivate them. Geek? 21%.

Note: click image for high-resolution version



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What's the Point of Checking In?

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I used to think that location-based services like Foursquare, Gowalla, Brightkite and all of their clones represented the next big thing in mobile. The reality, however, is that even though these companies are still growing (or at least say they are), I just can’t figure out why I should continue to check in when I arrive at a restaurant or bar. As of now, I am getting absolutely zero value out of checking in.

Maybe it doesn’t help that not a single one of my friends outside of the tech blogosphere bubble uses any of these services (they don’t use Twitter either, by the way). But even then, what value would I get out of seeing that they are at a certain restaurant or bar nearby right now? It’s not like I’ll go there and ruin their romantic evening by sitting at their table. 

Lots of Badges but No Real-World Value

And don’t get me started about the “game mechanics” (which – at least for location-based services is really just code for “badges“). If the only value I get out of checking in is a virtual badge, then taking the phone out of my pocket to check in is clearly not worth the calories I burn in the process. Also, at least here in Portland, the promise of coupons for mayors hasn’t materialized yet (or at least not at the places I frequent). Even if it did – I’m not a regular anywhere, so becoming the mayor of anywhere but my house is out of the question anyway.

For the time being, I’m not getting enough value out of using Foursquare, Gowalla and the rest of them to make checking in worthwhile. Maybe that will change at some point, but for now, I’m checking out.

What’s Your Experience?

What about you? Are you still checking in or has ‘check-in fatigue’ set in for you as well? If you are still checking in, what’s the value you are getting out of it?


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