As I wrote last week, Google was preparing to let businesses offer check-in deals via the Google Places local search service.
That’s now come to fruition as a new feature in the Offer coupon creation option in the Google Places dashboard, as first pointed out by the eagle-eyed Mike Blumental.
Google confirmed the new service for me and directed me to this Places support Web page, which explains the nitty-gritty details.
The page describes how businesses distributing a Google Offer can request that users check in from Google Maps for Mobile after signing into Google+.
Users can choose to share their check-in publicly or with some of their circles, which helps spread the word about businesses on Google+. Users may also keep their check-in private.
Google is targeting restaurants, cafes, shops and gyms for this and recommends businesses that don’t require patrons to frequent their establishment to ask their customers to check in. Duh! Here is a Q&A:
Blumenthal noted that while this is the first meaningful way to offer coupons via Google Places, the appeal broadens a bit when customers choose to share money they saved via Google+.
Of course, there are obvious friction layers. As Blumenthal noted, check-in offers are only visible when a customer visits.
The service requires users to be using Google Maps for Mobile on Android and that those users be Google+ members. Google Offers for Android will soon ask users to check in as well.
Its still like a Google Android-Google+ club of exclusivity.
Google will have to add such functionality to iOS users and perhaps even try a more aggressive social commerce tack, such as requiring users who redeemed check-in offers to make them public on Google+.
But then Google would also subject itself to the same flak Facebook is taking over its frictionless sharing. I don’t see that happening. Google is making a concerted effort not to overstep privacy boundaries, taking its cues from Facebook in the process.