Loyalty programs used to be a relatively simple thing. Buy a certain amount of widgets, visit a store so many times, hole punch or swipe a card, earn points, win stuff. Sure there was a bit more strategy behind those programs but I was still young enough back then to spend my Saturday mornings eating Captain Crunch and watching cartoons. (Well, some things never change...). Nowadays, loyalty programs have so many layers and promotional channels it's not even funny. I've talked on Hinda Incentives' blog about how mobile phones are the new loyalty card, replacing the traditional hole punch contraption that some had become accustomed to. So if mobile devices are becoming loyalty cards, how is that relevant to Facebook?

Mobile Time Dominance

Josh Martin shared on his blog the other day some data from comScore that showed time spent on mobile sites. The graph shows how Facebook is dominating time spent on a mobile site. Sure the data is related to mobile users in Great Britain but I'm sure the same could be said about mobile usage in the United States. (Click here to see the full chart)

Plus Geolocation

Now let's take a look at Facebook Places. What makes Places effective as a check-in tool is Facebook Deals. Not only can you find and earn certain deals by checking in, Places also allows two different types of Deal setting for business owners: one-time visits and loyalty deals. Similar to the old school punch card, Facebook users can earn bigger rewards for visiting a visit a certain number of times. These loyalty deals are set at a max of 20 check-ins (but honestly, would you want more than that?).

In addition to loyalty check-ins, Deals also allows a group check-in experience. If groups of 8 or more check in together at a venue, they too can earn an additional deal. If a company were to tap into the "Sponsored Stories" advertising option, they would have an even broader scope of personal networks to tap into simultaneously. This would help build loyalty and spread the brand name even quicker across the site. I've talked about (on Hinda's blog) how group buying services like Groupon could tap into location services to increase loyalty. This is just another way checkins and group buying could see a mutually beneficial experience.

Equals Loyalty Dominance Potential

So let's break this down. Facebook has:

  • The most minutes spent on it out of any mobile site
  • Check-in functions
  • Deals offered based on location and proximity
  • Small loyalty programs within those deals
  • Group buying capabilities
  • An active audience of 600 million people for users to share these deals and check-ins with

I would venture to guess that Facebook will move to a much bigger player in the loyalty space. What do you all think?

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