As previously reported on ARGNet, in the last year, location-based gaming start-up SCVNGR has been taking the smartphone app world by storm, partnering with giant entertainment companies as well as local businesses, nonprofits, and cultural institutions to build “a game layer on top of the world.” Very much a driving force in the overall gamification movement, SCVNGR has just launched a new venture, LevelUp, and is moving into the realm of “local deals” ventures like Groupon and Living Social.
At a press conference in Philadelphia, SCVNGR Chief Rockstar Michael Hagan kicked off the first LevelUp deals at the “inspired” Boloco burrito chain in Boston and PYT, home of the “craziest burgers” in Philadelphia. (They probably earned that moniker because of their Krispy Kreme burger.) LevelUp brings together the check-in, the challenge, and the reward all “in one bite,” according to Hagan, and benefits local merchants in the long term by “scripting a reason to return.”
Unlike “daily deals” from Groupon and Living Social, LevelUp will encourage return visits to local merchants by adding game mechanics to the discount offering. A local LevelUp offer will go live every day and will be open for 7 days. After using the Level 1 offer, you’ve effectively “leveled up” at that location and now an even better Level 2 discount is unlocked. Use the Level 2 discount and now you’re practically a “regular” and have access to Level 3, the best deal at the location, be it a burger joint or a rock-climbing gym.
Providing both a web interface and iPhone and Android apps, LevelUp can be used in real-time. Once the deal has been purchased, you can immediately show the barcode and receipt to the location and utilize the deal. Although deals do eventually expire, there is enough time prior to expiration to encourage return visits. Here’s a good example of how the deals are managed through your account on the LevelUp website.
In some ways, LevelUp is a way of digitizing the social fabric of “the regular,” that unspoken rule where your face becomes so well-known at a place that you get treated like a queen (or a king) the moment you walk in the door. This is significant for the local merchant, because unlike other “daily deals” sites, LevelUp doesn’t just move on to the next deal and forget about the local business, almost all of whom rely on repeat customers (not one-offs) to truly thrive.
Additionally, LevelUp is a way of adding narrative to the otherwise strictly transactional relationship between customer and seller. For example, perhaps a restaurant wants a customer to sample, not just their dinner menu, but also their brunch menu. They can simply offer a dinner special for one level and a brunch discount on another level. Or, maybe the rock-climbing gym might make its Level 1 discount a beginner’s course and then tie the subsequent levels to more advanced rock-climbing courses. This makes it possible to tie your personal rock-climbing success with your status as a “regular” at the gym.
Overall, it looks like SCVNGR is moving into the popular “daily deals” space by providing a less exploitative relationship for local merchants. Even as SCVNGR continues to get injections of venture capital and cultivates its international following (1 million strong in February), the company’s leaders seem intent on bringing social good through fun, and many LevelUp deals will directly benefit a number of charitable organizations, for example, Teach for America.
If you’re not one of us lucky Philadelphians or Bostonians who can just check out the LevelUp site now, keep an eye out for launches of LevelUp in areas near you by registering for email updates, following the LevelUp Twitter feed, or joining the Facebook fan page.