Posted November 24, 2010 4:17 pm by with 1 comment

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Local. Checkins. Deals. These are the top three buzzwords of mobile marketing. Though mobile’s been around awhile, this holiday season is poised to be the biggest when it comes to the use of mobile phones to facilitate shopping. But for every Old Navy, there are a hundred small business owners who would like to get in on the game but are overwhelmed by the process. can do something about that.

PlacePop isn’t one of the biggest players in the checkin game (not yet) but they have something Foursquare doesn’t have and that’s simplicity. The site, which was created by Kent Lindstrom, the former CEO of Friendster, was originally designed as an application that would allow people to share their favorite restaurants and shops with friends. Now, they’ve converted the app into a loyalty program for small businesses.

Instead of handing out paper punchcards to customers, business owners can create a free virtual punchcard on Say you own a cupcake shop. You can create a PlacePop loyalty program that gives your customers a free cupcake after five checkins. Placepop keeps track of the checkins and automatically sends out reward messages which the shopper then redeems by showing the code to the cashier on the next visit.

I talked with Julia Graham of PlacePop this week and she was confident that their program filled a need that wasn’t already being addressed.

“Place Pop isn’t about collecting badges, it’s not a game, it’s about loyalty rewards. Local deals, that’s what’s going to drive the space.”

Is it too late to start competing with the likes of Foursquare? Says Graham,

“It’s the early days of online meets offline and right now.  Checkins are nowhere near mainstream activities yet, but the fact that Facebook put the checkin button front and center on their mobile app tells you something. It’s a land grab and everyone wants to position themselves as the Zynga [of checkins].”

As a rabid consumer of coupons, I can tell you that I’ll go where the deal is and if that means running more than one type of checkin app on my phone, I’ll do it. Hey, who turns down free cupcakes?

If you’d like to set up a virtual loyalty card program on PlacePop just visit their website and follow the steps. It’s easy and right now, it’s free. How’s that for a great, local deal?