Google Places Mobile: Check-In Offers

In early March, Google rolled out Check In offers as a feature for Latitude in Austin. In April the feature was additionally made available to national retailers like Radio Shack and Quiznos.

The feature was not made generally accessible to most retailers. At the time I inquired of Google when it would be available more widely and if it was free or paid. Google provided their all to frequent “We’ll let you know if and when we have more details to share” response.

Well I managed to uncover some additional Mobile Check-Ins details in this recent Google Places Help Page:

Coupons: Mobile Check-in Offers

When users for businesses using Google for mobile devices, they’ll be able to access your Google Places Offer on their phone. You can also offer special deals to visitors if they check in online when they visit your business. Instead of printing out a paper coupon, customers can simply bring in their mobile device to redeem the offer — which means it’s a great and simple way to save trees, too!

Create a Mobile Check-in Offer

All Google Places offers are created in both mobile and desktop formats, so all you have to do is create an offer. If you’d like to offer a check-in option, simply select the appropriate type of customer in the “Target customers” field when you create the offer.

Turn Off a Mobile Check-in Offer

If you don’t want to distribute your offers via mobile phones, you can turn off the mobile feature by following the instructions below:

  1. Click Offers at the top of your Google Places account.
  2. Click Edit next to the offer on the dashboard to edit an existing offer.
  3. Deactivate the mobile phone format by un-checking the mobile coupon box.

Google Latitude Adds Checkin Offers Nationwide

Yesterday was a busy day for Google local. Google management changes in Local & the Hotpot rebranding made front page news around the web. An announcement that snuck through the cracks was the limited nationwide rollout of  check-in offers at “thousands of places across the U.S. using Latitude on the iPhone and Android”.

Offers (aka Coupons) and Latitude have both been step children in the pantheon of Google local products….huge but unrealized potential month in and month out over a fairly long time horizon. But they both seem to have found each of late and are the better for it.

Coupons, now called Offers, a nearly hidden feature in Places for what seems like eons, have often languished. They got their start in July of 2006 and received some push into 2007. For a while there was appreciable annual growth in the numbers of coupons in the system. But doubts about Google’s willingness to promote coupons surfaced early. By early 2009, amidst no promotion from Google and their failure to showcase coupons in any significant way, Google’s coupon inventory showed significant year over year declines. None but the most intrepid consumers could find them and even SMBs that availed themselves of the feature had trouble locating their own coupons.

After hitting their low point in early 2009, Google Coupons slowly started receiving limited attention from Google, at first cleaning out old and stale inventory and then  very sloooowly adding features and slightly increased visibilty. In November 2009  mobile compatibility and in June 2010 SMBs were given the ability to highlight them on their listing via Tags, potentially giving them front page exposure.

Shortly before loosing out in their effort to acquire Groupon in November of last year, Google rebranded Coupons as Offers. A superficial change but one that indicated that coupons were no longer on life support.

Google’s intended direction for the coupon aspect of Offers became clearer with a very public test in Austin concurrently with the South by Southwest Conference, integrating coupons with Latitude’s Check in process at 60 locations.  This newest expansion (details visible here) of offer checkins leverages some high value coupons at nationwide retailers and eateries:

  • American Eagle Outfitters: Up to 20% off your total purchase
  • Quiznos: Free sub when you buy a sub of equal or greater value
  • Arby’s: Free regular roast beef sandwich with purchase of a 22 oz. drink
  • RadioShack: Up to 20% off qualifying, in-store purchases
  • Finish Line: Save $10 on purchases over $50

In January of this year a spot check showed that the coupon volume hadn’t changed since 2009 with as few as 500 coupon offers in a city like NY. However, a check today shows that NYC now has 770 offers. Still anemic, still not visible to the general public but no longer on life support and growing once again.

Check in coupons are a natural fit with a check in product and offer obvious synergies that could move both Offers and Latitude forward in adoption and visibility.

When and how these Offers will be made available to other merchants is unclear. Is it a paid or free test? What is the tests duration and when will it be made available more widely? Will it be available and affordable to retailers large and small? All unknown at this point. (Although I did send those questions off to Google).

Google, not always able to capture the value in their technology due to execution and priorities, is nothing if not persistent. That should be obvious by their recent surge to a dominant player in reviews after many years in the shadows. Coupons via Offers and Latitude appears to be on a similar path.

Will the marriage of Latitude and Offers be successful? Would you use it in your or your client’s business if it were available?

Google Latitude: Check in, gain status, and unlock offers at more places

Last month, we rolled out Google Latitude check-in offers for 60 places around Austin. Today, we’re happy to announce that we’ve teamed up with some great partners to let you unlock check-in offers at thousands of places across the U.S. using Latitude for Android and iPhone. You can learn more at

Checking in lets you share the places that you visit and add context to your Latitude location for friends and family. At the same time, you can keep a history of where you’ve been while gaining status at the places you visit the most. When you gain status at places, they can now reward your loyalty with check-in offers. From discounts to a free snack, check-in offers let places give you an extra reason to keep coming back. Here’s how to get started:

  1. Check in. Check in using Latitude to share places with friends when you’re there.
  2. Gain status. Keep checking in every time you visit your favorite places to gain status there. You can tap your current status level to see your progress towards the next status level.
  3. Unlock offers. Places can make check-in offers available to you at each of their 3 status levels. When you gain higher status, you’ll unlock any available check-in offers.
From a Place page, check in, see your current status, and find check-in offers (left); tap your current status to see your progress to the next level (right).

You’ll be able to see both available and locked offers at places. To redeem an available check-in offer, just select it from the Place page, tap Redeem, and show the full offer on your phone.

See available and locked offers (left); tap available ones to redeem them (right).

By default, you can become a Regular, VIP, or Guru at places, but we’re also letting partners create their own status levels for you to achieve (coming soon on iPhone). For example, you can become a Champion of Taste at Quiznos or an AE Gold Shopper at American Eagle Outfitters, unlocking their check-in offers at the same time. Take a peek at some of our partners and their check-in offers below or see all of them at

  • American Eagle Outfitters: Up to 20% off your total purchase
  • Quiznos: Free sub when you buy a sub of equal or greater value
  • Arby’s: Free regular roast beef sandwich with purchase of a 22 oz. drink
  • RadioShack: Up to 20% off qualifying, in-store purchases
  • Finish Line: Save $10 on purchases over $50
  • Macy’s (Coming soon)

To start unlocking offers with Latitude, update to the latest version of Google Maps for Android (Latitude is a feature of Maps; requires Android 1.6+) or the Latitude app for iPhone. So start checking in at places when you’re there, and you might just unlock some great offers along the way.