When Foursquare debuted in 2009, checking in was at its prime. Facebook even saw the competition there and began enabling check-ins through its social network, as well. The trend rose in popularity, but has since fizzled out. The active check-in, while never gaining widespread appeal, was mostly popular with millennials and college students who would check in through these social networks as a way to tell their friends where they were, receive mobile deals and sometimes to discreetly brag that they were lucky enough to be at a Kanye West concert or vacationing on Nantucket.
Now that the novelty has worn thin, the value of the active check-in is beginning to diminish, and brands are finding that mobile location data can act as a passive proxy for the active check-in—reaching much broader audiences without requiring any user action other than initially opting in to share locations through their apps. This data is allowing timely and relevant mobile ads that are not triggered by active check-ins.
The passive check-in simply requires users to have their smartphones' location feature turned on for the apps that they use. This small step is a huge benefit to marketers, as it means that mobile users do not have to remember to check in to a location to receive deals. People not comfortable with posting their whereabouts publicly, are not on social network sites or have outgrown the practice can still reap the benefits of mobile deals.
Consider that in years past, brands, retailers and quick service restaurants (QSRs) would only be able to target location-based ads to consumers using the active check-in—which eliminated the vast majority of the population. Through active check-ins, brands are not able to target ads based on specific user profiles or historical location preferences; they simply targeted based upon current location.