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Westfield goes for a spin with Facebook Places


It’s been nearly a year since the world’s most popular social networking site launched Facebook Places, a mobile location-based feature that allows users to tell their friends where in the big wide world they are at any point in time.

But Facebook did not pioneer the so-called “check-in” feature. That innovation was introduced by Foursquare, first in the United States and about two years ago in Australia.

Last year, Foursquare also was the first to use the feature to do a marketing deal – with Coca-Cola. But the experiment was no roaring success. Consequently, we have seen few deals of that kind.

Now, Facebook is dipping its toe, in a way that, unsurprisingly, has the potential to dramatically change the market.

After all, Facebook is the 800-pound gorilla of social networking and one could expect its moves to shake the ground. When it did something similar – a promotion at Gap stores in New York – people scrambled to get their hands on the 10,000 pairs of jeans the apparel store gave away at discounts.

Westfield must be hoping for something comparable as it runs an experimental program offering exclusive discounts to users who sign into Facebook Places at its outlets nationwide. The retailer is partnering with specialty firms including Angus & Coote and Cotton On for these “check-in” deals.

In the first week of trial, shoppers were offered 30% discount and could share the deals with their online communities.

“Retail, and particularly the way we can now target shoppers with special deals and discounts, has changed dramatically over the past decade,” says John Batistich, Westfield’s general manager of marketing. “With tools such as Facebook Check In Deals we’re now able to communicate to our shoppers in relevant and localised ways.”

Batistich believes the ongoing experiment, which started 15 August, is a significant step forward for the retail industry and may bridge the “gap from the web to the stores.”

It is not known how effective Westfield’s experiment has been and whether or not Australian shoppers share with their American counterparts the same level of enthusiasm. One thing is clear: a lot of Australian dollars are riding on that program. With many believing that mobile marketing might be at the tipping point in this country, the expectations are high.