Duplicate venues are a major problem for national chains looking to encourage customers to check-in on Foursquare — since it’s downright impossible to track engagement and manage interactions when customers are checking-in at locations that haven’t been verified. In an effort to solve this problem, Cinnabon turned to MomentFeed for help in 2011. MomentFeed worked with Cinnabon to merge duplicate venues, adjust inaccurate geo-codes, and update venues with correct addresses and consistent branding. The result? Cinnabon corporate communications manager Rachel Hadley says the company has seen a nearly 700% increase in customer engagement on Foursquare, Facebook, and Twitter over the past eight months.
Why is hyperlocal marketing so important for Cinnabon?
For location-based services specifically, we see it as digital word-of-mouth, so it’s definitely not something that we want to ignore. We always want to incorporate it. Any time you can have folks talking about your product and sharing their experiences with friends, we want to encourage that.
What got you interested in trying out MomentFeed?
They actually contacted us. It was wonderful because many of our bakeries are in, I don’t want to say non-traditional venues, but places like malls — very high-frequency, high-traffic areas with lots of other retailers. Because of this, it’s very hard to pinpoint the geo-code or the geographical location for where our bakeries are. The address of a mall can be an entire city block. With [MomentFeed’s] technology, they were able to help us figure out the longitude and latitude of our specific bakeries. They were able to provide really super accurate information.
Another thing with Foursquare, for instance, is that anyone can go in and add a location if [they] see that a location isn’t there. One of the problems for us is that if you’re in a mall and you go to check-in, you’ll see tons of things listed because there are so many [businesses] in the area. You might not see Cinnabon up high in the search, so you might add the location. Then I go to the mall the next day, and I don’t see the Cinnabon [you added], so I add a location. We had several malls that we had tons of locations at, but venue optimization got rid of duplicates. It merged them all into one. It also increased the search engine optimization, as well.
Conversely, there might be a mall or an airport that has multiple bakeries. At the Atlanta airport, for instance, we have a bakery in Concourse A and in Concourse B, so we wanted to make sure that we weren’t deleting one of those venues. We wanted to keep them as separate venues that people could check-in to, but we wanted to specify the difference between them. So the [venue optimization] process helped us to get more specific on exactly where the locations are, and call them what we wanted to call them. So instead of just calling it Cinnabon, we could say it’s Cinnabon Concourse B and Cinnabon Concourse A.
What role did you have in the process of sorting all this geo-location information out, versus the role that MomentFeed took on?
We gave them the data that we had from our system, being the addresses. But like I said, a mall’s address doesn’t tell you exactly where it is. So, they got a lot of the information [for us]. For instance, we didn’t have any of the longitude and latitude of our locations, and they were able to get that. I know that they did a lot, but quite frankly I’m not exactly sure [what was involved]. I know that with the venue optimization process, that also increases your search engine optimization when people go to check-in, because it verifies you as a legitimate location.
How does venue optimization translate to better engagement with customers online?
I think that it makes it easier for folks to check-in. There might be people who don’t realize that there is a location right around the corner. If you’re at an airport, you might not be familiar with all of the food venues in that area or on that concourse. One of the functionalities of Foursquare is to help you explore, so we can tag certain categories—like baked goods, specialty beverages, coffee, and things like that—and if someone goes to search that location to explore what’s around them, they’ll find us. Before this, we hadn’t claimed any of our venues on Foursquare, so we weren’t able to control that data at all. Cinnabon might [have been] listed as a bakery in one place and as a coffee shop in another place. Or it might just have been listed as retail or food service, but not with specific information.
I read that Cinnabon was able to increase customer engagement by almost 700% with MomentFeed. What does that really mean for a company?
It’s word-of-mouth. Just the optimization process in and of itself created an increase in check-ins because people are able to find [the locations]. But then also, like I said, I totally see [check-in activity] as digital word-of-mouth. If anyone came up to your bakery and said they were going to tell all of their friends that they were there, you would hand them a megaphone. Having the tools for them to be able to tell people that they’re there, that’s important. So we wanted to make it as easy as possible for them to do that.
What are the biggest challenges that you’ve experienced when it comes to marking with check-in platforms?
We might have a bakery that’s either temporarily closed or maybe it’s seasonal. We are in several theme parks and areas like that, and we don’t have control over taking [our Foursquare venues] down. If [customers] think a location is there, or if someone wrongly creates a venue that doesn’t exist, that can be a challenge. [We can’t control] that without tremendous oversight. It’s like policing the internet, and that’s pretty hard.
Which platforms have been the most important for you, in terms of customer engagement and word-of-mouth?
It’s a combination of platforms; it just depends. We’re a global brand, so Foursquare might not be as important in certain countries as others. Facebook Places might not be as important as in certain areas as others. I see Twitter very much as an engagement tool and I think content’s important, but I also see it as a customer service tool more than anything. If someone comes to our Facebook page and talks about us and addresses something, we’re absolutely going to address whatever questions they may have, like “Where is my nearest bakery?” and that sort of thing. But they may not know to look for us on Twitter. They might just be talking about us, and we can engage in that. With Facebook, a lot of the wall posts are blocked content or private. So there can be more opportunities on Twitter [for us] to jump in and say, “I’d like to hear more about your experience.”
Stephanie Miles is an associate editor at Street Fight. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
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