No one quite expected Foursquare would grow so large so fast. Like other fast-growing Web companies, Foursquare has an enormous user-base and the attention of the entire tech industry, but has yet to develop a sustainable business model to monetize what its created.
The obvious business model is monetization via local businesses- the ones cashing in on the “check-in” craze Foursquare pioneered. Without Foursquare’s help, savvy business owners have already begun offering discounts and specials to customers who check-in to their locations frequently, or become mayors, and the concept has paid off nicely so far.
Foursquare has taken note, however, and has just created a dashboard to allow local businesses that want to offer mayor specials and other rewards to people who check-in an easy to use Web-interface to organize, track and promote their various offers.
Foursquare “Venue Pages” now include the message, “Are you the manger of this business?” and a link to begin the process of signing up their business through the new local business dashboard. Any business owner can claim their Foursquare venue and manage their account in three simple steps. Upon manual verification by Foursquare that a claimed venue is in fact for-real, the business owner can easily create their first offer, which is then automatically added to the queue.
Once approved, businesses will gain access to the new business dashboard where they can manage specials on an on-going basis and eventually control staff privileges. The dashboard is the same as the one select businesses were given early access to, so it includes the same stats on visitor data — recent visitors, most frequent visitors, total uniques — and a histogram of checkins per day. The dashboard even allows business owners to order special Foursquare stickers to place at their businesses to promote their various offers to users.
Access to the dashboard is currently free to use, and will likely stay that way. Foursquare plans to gain a fair amount of users, then optimize the platform based on feedback and usage trends. Once a large amount of offers are being created, used and tracked by Foursquare, the company can get a better handle on the next iteration of its dashboard.
Monetization will likely come from the offers and promotions themselves, similar to a Google AdWords-like concept, but the key priority at the moment, according to Foursquare, is to build its dashboard with the richest features possible to try and build its business user-base as large as possible. Once that happens, monetization will easily follow- or at least that’s the plan.