Are we still talking about social location based apps?

solomoSocial, location and mobile apps are the rage, but how can businesses make sense of all the user data that these platforms gain from usage and engagement?

Let’s take a step back and rewind back to four years back. Remember what was the hot buzz word back then?

“I am building a Social Location Mobile App.”

Yes everyone was talking about SoLoMo then, and how they are integrating the various SoLoMo elements into their mobile app. SoLoMo is made mainstream with Foursquare, a location-based social networking app for mobile devices, such as smartphones. Users “check in” at venues using a mobile website, text messaging or a device-specific application by selecting from a list of venues the app locates nearby. When the app premiered at SXSW back in 2009, it was a hit. Foursquare went ahead and raise multiple rounds of funding, and to date has raised over US$112 million in funding.

Back in Singapore, we have our own version of Foursquare, too; you’d know if you have been in the startup scene since 2010. Found, our Echelon 2010 launchpad alumnus, allows people to organize hangouts with friends. Found then went to showcase at Demo, putting the Singapore startup scene on the international stage. Found was well received on the international stage, and CNet even called it the “Foursquare of the Future.” Found received a US$500,000 investment from investors such as Neoteny Labs as well as East Ventures back in 2010. Their pitch at echelon 2010 made them the stars of the show. Dave McClure, who was judging their pitch, was moved to say: “Singapore, you have hope!”

While there were a lot of promises, Found was killed for undisclosed reasons, and the original founders are working on their next ventures. Foursquare on the other hand, is haunted by rumours of underperformance and overvaluation.

Fast forward to today, we just found out that Korea based Pickat has recently launched in Singapore. Pickat is a simple location-based social application that allows you to discover, create and share interesting places. Created by SK Planet, the largest South Korean telco, Pickat can be used to discover and share interesting places with one another. Here’s how it looks like:

pickat

Having originally launched Pickat in Korea, SK Planet has recently brought and launched the app in Singapore. Other than a simple launch, Pickat has recently partnered with Yakun, a household brand that sells traditional bread toast in Singapore. With the Pickat app, you can collect your free Yakun drink with the in-app coupon.

On top of that, Pickat Singapore has also collaborated with All Deals Asia. If the area you are currently at consist of ADA clients and/or their branches, the app will show you the available deals and you’ll be directed to ADA website for coupon purchase.

Effectively, Pickat is adding deals discovery to its location based app, a feature which is almost identical with Foursquare Business. It is still unclear how Pickat monetizes the app, though.

Perhaps the more important question is whether people are still using check-ins. Foursquare says yes: the company is seeing an average of 6 million check-ins per day this month, compared with 4 million per day in January 2012 and 1.5 million a day in January 2011.

What’s the problem with user data?

While we don’t have the actual numbers, we are seeing signs of data being diluted by several players in the mobile check-in space, thanks to the rise of photo sharing apps. The value of check ins lies in the data that apps collect, which can be translated into actionable insights, which businesses can use to generate more income. User data are all over the place, with apps such as Instagram, which has its own photo discovery feature, or restaurant discovery apps such as HungryGoWhere or Yelp, mobile food discovery app such as Burpple and Picky, and existing internet giants like Facebook launching new features such as “Nearby” as well as Google’s Places for Business.

For businesses then, all of these platforms provide them with an avenue to reach out to potentially millions of customers. We are talking only about restaurant and business discovery apps. There are also other options for them: daily deals sites, mobile loyalty apps, as well as online advertising. This shifts the leverage to favor platforms with the highest number of local active users. New entrants might, then, have a hard time convincing businesses and restaurants to come on board, which might explain why it make sense for Pickat to partner with All Deals Asia.

While the search and advertising industry is a multi billion dollar industry, it might be a challenge for players like Pickat to pick a fight with other existing players. For a location discovery app like Pickat to remain relevant, it has to continually inject new information from new users. Of course, the fight is easier with the backing of SK Planet, because one of its competitive edges is the ability to access millions of potential customers from Korea.

As a business owner, I might have user and customer data on multiple platforms. Where do I think the next million dollar opportunity might lie? I will need to make sense of all these data on multiple platforms, which are protected tightly by all the companies involved. Instead of building the next SoLoMo app, someone should look into making sense of all these data.

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Jacky Yap

Having spent one year abroad in Shanghai under the NUS Overseas College Programme, Jacky has an avid interest in entrepreneurship and web based startups. Jacky used to run N-House, Singapore's first entrepreneurial themed residence in NUS, and was also part of the organizing team for Startup Weekend Singapore 2012. You can reach him at jacky [at] e27 [dot] co

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