Except when it's not.
Facebook has just launched Places. And in the world of retail, Shopkick has made its debut as a new app that sends you offers when you're in stores. Along the same lines, Foursquare has been a social shopping cause celebré since its inception.
But as a growing number of people are complaining, such services rarely bring more value than basic signage in stores would accomplish. After all, why do I need to use my mobile phone to access a special offer at Starbucks, when a sign with the same offer would suffice? What's more, many people are already complaining that the actual offers aren't worth the login (or check-in) required.
And let's face it. The minute, the moment, the nanosecond you and I find ourselves receiving - or finding ourselves needing to ask for - dubious offers at 20 different retailers as we walk down the street, it's all going to get very old, very fast.
Don't get me wrong. I'm a big fan of Dennis Crowley, co-founder of Foursquare (I interview him in my new book THE ON-DEMAND BRAND - listen the source interview with Crowley here). If anyone can make a go of Foursquare, it's him.
And I think Shopkick is a step in the right direction.
But in the book, I look at the kind of app that would truly bring value to consumers - and it has far more to do with who the user is and what they're after, rather than where the user is standing.
Instead of a basic offers/loyalty app like Shopkick, think more along the lines of next-generation version of that old Gap StyleMixer app from a while back, delivered either by specific retail brands or an intermediary service. Strip out the rudimentary share-an-outfit features. And instead imagine a new kind of Gap app (or "Gapp," if you will) that you activate as you enter the store.
This app could keep track of your past purchases and bring up any new offers that may be of interest to you - and uniquely you.
Like those jeans you bought last month? You're going to love these shirts - complete with a map to location of the merchandise in-store.
Using the app’s scanner, you can scan products, access shopper reviews and see recommendations on accessories and other items. Walk into the dressing room, snap an image of yourself in the mirror, and share the look with your friends via your favorite social media channels to see if it's "fly" or "forgettaboutit."
And once satisfied that you want the garment, you simply walk out the door - the charges are automatically applied to the credit card information you entered in the app's interface - the security device is disabled, and you're on your way. Without ever digging for cash, writing a check, swiping a card or standing in line.
All with the ability for the user - not the service or the retailer - to control what personal information is collected, shared - if, when, and how - through a simple interface.
It's coming faster than you think. And it will bring value that Google, Facebook, Foursquare and Shopkick can't offer - at least not yet.
Bottom line: It's not (just) about the location of shoppers.
It's about the shoppers themselves - and the on-demand services and offers they want - when, where and how they want them.