While much attention has been focused on Facebook’s Places location app and how it will affect the Foursquares and Gowallas of the world, there’s at least one LBS startup that doesn’t see Facebook encroaching on its territory. CheckPoints expects to come out of stealth mode next month with an app designed to hook consumers up with real products of interest to them.
CheckPoints CEO Mark DiPaola, says even though his company is in the same general LBS category as Foursquare and Gowalla, it has very little in common with them because they’re primarily for social connections. CheckPoints is focused on tangible products and helping consumers connect with products that are interesting to them.
Here’s an example of how it works. If you’re going to the grocery store, you check in and CheckPoints tells you which products are for “checking out,” so to speak. You don’t need to buy the product, but you go to the aisle, pick it up and scan the bar code with a smartphone. (The system uses the camera in the smartphone to complete the bar code transaction, but DiPaola says the app is set up to look like it’s operating like a bar code scanner.) In return, you get points or coupons that can be used toward real things, like airline miles, gift certificates, big box retail outfits or something else.
He says CheckPoints takes the idea of checking in to the next level, creating real, tangible value rather than awarding badges or strictly virtual goods. “There’s no one really focusing on product in this space right now,” he says, adding that he’s sure others will follow once they see what’s happening. CheckPoints plans to stay ahead of the fray by creating relationships early on between consumers and products.
DiPaola explains that advertisers want their products to stand out in a crowded market, whether it be a grocery, big box or office supply store. What CheckPoint allows is for them to be front and center no matter where their product is physically located on a shelf.
But how do advertisers stand apart if multitudes of them in the same categories end up participating? DiPaola says the system is designed like Google’s in that it’s bid based, so higher bids result in better visibility. The more points advertisers want to offer the end user, the better placement their ads get. CheckPoints gets a commission on the advertising.
CheckPoints uses location information from the phone to make sure the user is where they say they are – and only after the user has given permission via check in. On the iPhone, the location information is a combination of GPS, network and Wi-Fi.
DiPaola declined to specify how many brands will be on board at launch, but says he was surprised how well it’s been received. Brands have been looking at how they fit into the location puzzle and when they see the beta application, it’s a pretty easy sell. At launch, the company will have support for iPhone; an Android app is in development and may follow within a few months.