Foursquare is starting the rollout of new merchant tools today that, for the first time, will let businesses broadcast messages directly to their customers. It extends foursquare’s recent redesign and improvements on the user-facing side to businesses.
With the new tools — part of an entirely new dashboard for merchants — businesses will be able to populate the friends tab of their most loyal customers with updates from their stores, like special sales or events.
Unlike Facebook and Twitter, which require businesses to amass followers, foursquare will be determining who should receive the updates. Foursquare will be basing their decision on a combination of factors, including number of check-ins, recency of check-ins and current location.
The updates will appear in the friends tab, mixed in with updates from friends; the venue screens within the app; in the messages displayed after users have checked in; and on the foursquare website’s activity feed and venue pages. As with other updates, users can “like” the ones they enjoy, which could surface them in the activity feed where they’ll be visible to non customers.
Using the updated dashboard for merchants, businesses will be able to target customers near any of their stores, or narrow it down to a regional or individual store basis, allowing local managers to post updates about events specific to their own stores. Business can add photos or attach a link to a foursquare special when posting the updates, along with optionally sharing to Facebook or Twitter.
Updates from launch partners H&M, Togo’s Sandwiches, Northern Spy Food Company, New York Public Library, NYC Parks Department, Luke’s Lobster, several universities and Outback Steakhouse will begin appearing today. The new dashboard will roll out over the next few days.
The new functionality paves the way for sponsored updates in the future, putting foursquare on the path to a real business model. Up to now, they’ve had little recurring revenue to show for all their efforts, despite having 1 million registered business customers.
What do you think of the local updates?
UPDATE: You can turn off these updates for individual stores if you don’t want to receive them. To do so, tap “the most recent update, swipe to the bottom of the detail screen, and tap the ‘updates from [name] are on’ to opt out.