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Foursquare debuts an omnichannel strategy made for the real world

The trouble with catching on to buzzwords in their formative stages is that they can be slippery little critters. Take the topical tadpole that is omnichannel.

Karen GoulartKaren Goulart

A few months ago, Searchlight featured a story about Best Buy mounting a comeback by taking an omnichannel approach. The accepted meaning of the word omnichannel then was "multichannel done well," i.e., a seamless customer experience from smart device to brick-and-mortar store. But evolution happens. Today the omni- prefix also applies to the actual customers -- not your business' customers or your competitor's customers, but all customers.

You say po-ta-to, I say po-tah-to. The point is that the meaning of customer service is changing, as this week's lead Searchlight story about the rise, fall and upward mobility of the e-commerce company Foursquare illustrates.

As journalist Michael Carney in PandoDaily laid out, the app famous for its restaurant and retail check-ins was on the verge of becoming the mayor of Who Cares About This Anymore? But this week, Foursquare made news for its partnership with app GrubHub Seamless. Now, rather than just finding nearby restaurants their friends have enjoyed, users can tap into GrubHub Seamless and place orders for delivery. There was much rejoicing that one could get food to one's face without ever putting down the smartphone. (And, indeed, that is a beautiful thing.)

Which brings me back to po-ta-to/po-tah-to and the big picture here for IT people and their friends over in the marketing department: As Carney points out, Foursquare can now provide a social, information-rich full customer experience. The alliance is a great illustration of where commerce as a whole, not just e-commerce, is headed. And for CIOs, it's a useful example of the latest definition of omnichannel: It's more than just seamless; it's boundless.

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The restaurants that partner with GrubHub Seamless, and now Foursquare, might be right across the street from each other in constant competition, but they also know a win-win situation when they see one. The more customer information Foursquare gets from them, the more personalized the customer's experience, which benefits the restaurants.

Between its reviews, its mapping, its social connectivity and now a true retail connection, Foursquare has the opportunity to be seamless, filling in the space between the screens and the stores. As Carney put it, in this era in which consumers spend more time looking at devices than the world around them, Foursquare has built a platform to create the opposite behavior. It has "evolved into a tool for exploring and engaging with the world around us, with only a slight assist from our silicon-powered pocket assistants." The world is filled with opportunity.

  • If there were a badge for making your company seem relevant again, Foursquare just might earn it.
  • Could Satya Nadella be Microsoft's next CEO? All of techdom is watching for the red, green, yellow and blue smoke to rise over Redmond.
  • First there was the army of robots, now Google has parted with $400 million for artificial intelligence startup DeepMind Technologies. The (frightening) possibilities are endless -- this piece from Re/code ponders a couple of them.
  • Ignore what your friends say about your addiction; the NSA thinks Angry Birds is a perfectly fine way to inadvertently feed them intelligence -- uh, unwind.
  • Where others failed, a new tech startup has created an app that successfully identifies people you "know" from social networks who are in your physical vicinity. Aaand, already missing the days of technology being alienating.
  • A source told Forbes it wasn't about beating Dropbox to the punch, but Box apparently beat Dropbox to the punch by stealthily filing for IPO earlier this week.

Let us know what you think about the story; email Karen Goulart, senior features writer.

This was first published in January 2014

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