Check-ins driven efficiency or how not to closedown your small café

With my wife and friends we used to run a small café in the town where I live. Don’t worry this post wouldn’t be about the quality of coffee served around the SXSW in Austin. (It’s good by the way, but you have to wait on long lines in the morning.)

When we ran that cafeteria, we learned the truth about the importance of location the hard-way. After two years of operation we were forced to close. The location was not very popular, although closeness of the school and small shops predicted that we could have reasonable amount of guests. We ran several marketing campaigns, incentives, did mobile marketing, sending the texts with personal invitations – nothing worked. And the coffee was one of the best in town…

I wish we had a service like Foursquare five years ago. We could see the interesting data on which time the most check-ins occurs and what are the other popular locations in the town. Wouldn’t it be interesting to know which cafeteria in the town is trending? Where the best coffee is by the public opinion?  Which fashion boutique is “swarming?”

Collective location services which will aggregate data points from applications like Foursquare or navigation systems like Nokia’s Ovi could come to help. Check-in to location using these apps can not only help shop owners see the popularity of the places, but also it can drive efficiencies in delivering goods just-in-time, or help dispatch workers scattered around city to work.

At the one of the most crowded panels on location services I heard from Foursquare co-founder Naveen Selvadurai, that check-ins have meaning. At least in determining the location popularity. But there is a lot more going on behind the scenes. Future location-based social network services will run more in the back-end and the “specials,” so beloved here in US, will be available automatically to certain credit card owners or just people coming from interesting locations.