PCC Embraces Location-Based Apps

ANAHEIM, Calif. — PCC Natural Markets, a nine-store Seattle-based operator, has jumped into the location-based, “check-in” mobile app arena, running specials through Foursquare, Facebook Places and Yelp.

ANAHEIM, Calif. — PCC Natural Markets, a nine-store Seattle-based operator, has jumped into the location-based, “check-in” mobile app arena, running specials through Foursquare, Facebook Places and Yelp.

Retailers can use the free services as a means of cultivating loyalty by disseminating offers and having shoppers — and potentially their connected friends — “check in” on their mobile phones to redeem the offers.

“When they check in the third time, shoppers are rewarded,” said Ricardo Rabago, social media specialist for PCC, during a session last week at Natural Foods Expo West here. “It’s a digital loyalty program.” Cashiers are trained to be aware of the offers, which might include free cookies or soup.

“Location-based services allow retailers to engage with shoppers,” he said.

Rabago said PCC analyzes data from the location-based services that show when shoppers checked in, how many times and their gender. “We can determine from the data whether we should run a special in the morning, at lunchtime or dinner time.”

PCC is also making use of free Web services — Placepunch is one — that allow retailers to compare their results from location-based services with that of competitors. “I can compare my numbers to local retailers,” said Rabago. “Why do they have more check-ins? What time of day are they using?”

One caveat for retailers using location-based services and aggregation services like Groupon is that while there is no up-front cost, there is the danger of committing to too many offers — and attracting shoppers who are only interested in the offers and not an ongoing shopping experience. There is also the risk of relying on a third-party provider whose technical snafus consumers will blame on the retailer.