Back in August, Facebook launched a location-based service called Places, which allowed users to check-in to any location using their mobile phone. It was nothing new at the time. Location-based services such as Foursquare have been around for a while, but the number of users using these services has remained relatively small. A recent study released by Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project found that only 7% of adults who go online with their mobile phone use a location-based service. (Note, this report was done between August and September, right as Facebook Places was being launched)
Now all this may change. Facebook recently announced a new feature with Places. Users can now receive deals from businesses when they check-in to locations. This was something that had been missing with the initial launch of Places (Foursquare has always offered a similar service).
One of the first major deals is with Gap, who will offer 10,000 pairs of free jeans to users who check in using Facebook's Places. For a limited time Chipotle is also offering a buy one, get one free offer when users check-in to any location. Many other businesses such as 24 Hour Fitness, H&M, and Starbucks are already planning deals in the coming weeks as well.
With Facebook's 200 million active mobile users, this could be tipping point for location-based services to catch on with mainstream users. Location-based services represents a huge area of growth for marketers, retailers and local businesses which can target and push relevant information within the context of where users are located. Facebook clearly has the power to influence (see my post about what their 'Like' button means to web traffic) and its mobile users are twice as active on Facebook than its non-mobile users.