Forecasting the Future of Check-Ins with Forecast 2.0

Future-tense social sharing app Forecast is launching version 2.0 of its app today in an effort to reverse a trend of slowing growth. The updated version of the app, which allows users to tell friends where they’re going next, opens up integration to social networks beyond Foursquare, including Facebook. Forecast CEO and founder Renee Pinnell said he hopes this will return the app to its exponential growth pattern, which had recently levelled out as Forecast reached the upper limit of who it could reach via Foursquare’s relatively limited user pool.

We asked Pinnell about what Forecast brings to the table that the recently-deadpooled Plancast was missing. “All successful social platforms are based on having a pretty low bar for social sharing, like a photo app for instance,” he said. “Take a picture, everyone can do that. One of the problems that Plancast had was that when you asked a user what events are going on, most people know maybe one per month or one per week at most. If you ask your users where are you going next, though, most people can answer that question.”

Another big challenge of planning apps like Plancast is that when the event arrives or has passed, the relationship arguably has no reason to exist anymore. Pinnell said that Forecast rises to this challenge by addressing the “loop between future and present.” That’s accomplished primarily through location-based tech in version 2.0 of the Forecast app. “We send a push notification when you arrive at a location prompting you to check-in,” he said. “This is a really key loop for us to optimize, because the other big shortcoming we’ve seen in other products like Plancast and Facebook Events is that there’s an incredibly high flake-out factor. People say they’re going to be going to a million things and they hardly ever show up.”

Forecast is thus designed to encourage users to be more reliable in their attendance, Pinnell says, and that’s resulted in a 76 percent completion rate in terms of Forecast users who say they’ll be somewhere and then actually show up, according to the company’s data. Pinnell also pointed out that actual attendance may even be higher, since not everyone remembers to check in via Forecast once they arrive at a location.

That ability to encourage user follow-through is key element of Forecast’s future revenue goals. “The Holy Grail of marketing has always been to understand a particular customer’s intent, because once you understand their intent, you can market to them in a much more relevant way,” he said, citing Google’s search ads as a prime example. “What we’ve built with Forecast is a system where our users are clearly and directly expressing their intent.” Pinnell believes there’s a lot that can be done with having that information beforehand, including offering customers deals and coupons related to their plans, either by providing a competitive choice to their intended destination, or suggesting venues and activities that complement their own intentions.

Forecast has some competition in the space of future-focused check-ins, including the more broadly-aimed Ditto, founded by Google’s former social chief.  There’s also always the chance that Foursquare could offer up similar functionality itself, though it has shown no signs of being interested in doing so. Plus, now that Forecast is reaching beyond Foursquare’s limited member pool, it has the potential to eventually appeal to a broader swath of users. And if it can also prove its merit to brands and marketers with 2.0 and beyond, the future of the future-tense check-in is bright.

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