April 12, 2011, 4:12 PM

Google checks in with national chains

Consumers can now use Google’s Latitude location app to receive special offers.

Lead Photo

In a move to better compete with such location-based mobile check-in programs as foursquare, Facebook Places and shopkick, Google Inc. is adding check-in offers from national chains including American Eagle Outfitters and Finish Line to its Google Latitude app.

American Eagle Outfitters is offering up to 20% off a total purchase for check-ins, sandwich shop Quiznos a free sub when consumers buy one sub of equal or greater value, and Finish Line $10 off on purchases of $50 or more. Radio Shack is also participating and Macy’s will soon join in.

Google began last month offering discounts and deals for consumers who checked in to participating merchants in Austin, TX. Now consumers can check in to receive discounts at thousands of locations across the U.S., Google says in a blog post. To check in, a consumer opens the app and taps a button to activate the GPS that senses the consumer is within a store or other location.

“Checking in lets you share the places that you visit and add context to your Latitude location for friends and family,” Google says. “At the same time, you can keep a history of where you’ve been while gaining status at the places you visit the most. When you gain status at places, they can now reward your loyalty with check-in offers. From discounts to a free snack, check-in offers let places give you an extra reason to keep coming back.” Google Latitude is available for smartphones running Google’s Android mobile operating system and for Apple Inc.’s iPhone.

To gain access to deals and discounts and to share their locations with friends, app users check in using Latitude. Users can make their way up Latitude’s three status levels as they make return visits to merchants. They also can monitor their levels to see how close they are to reaching the next tier. At each level, merchants offer various discounts and rewards for checking in. Each time a user gains a higher status, she can unlock any available check-in offers.

Latitude users can see both available and locked offers at places. To redeem an available check-in offer, a shopper selects it from the merchant’s Latitude Place page, taps Redeem and presents the offer on her phone to the merchant.

Users can become a Regular, VIP or Guru at places, but Google says it is also letting merchants create their own status levels through the Android app, and will soon offer the feature on the iPhone app.

For example, consumers can become a Champion of Taste at Quiznos or an AE Gold Shopper at American Eagle Outfitters. To start unlocking offers with Latitude, consumers need to update to the latest version of Google Maps for Android.  Latitude is a feature of Maps and requires Android verison 1.6 or higher. IPhone uses can download the Latitude app for the iPhone, which comes with Google Maps pre-installed.

The Google app, like similar services, uses a smartphone’s built-in GPS technology to pinpoint the location of a consumer.

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