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Check-in’ out the location-based apps, Pt 5 – SCVNGR

Henry Elliss
Henry Elliss
Managing Director
15 October 2010

This is the final post in a series of five blogs, looking at some of the major players in the location-based app business – FourSquare, Gowalla, Facebook Places, Yelp and SCVNGR. As well as looking at the pro’s and cons of each for users of the service, I’m taking a look at what opportunities they present for brands and services who might choose to use them. On Monday we looked at FourSquare; Tuesday was Gowalla; Wednesday focussed on Facebook Places. Thursday covered Yelp; Today, part 5 of the series takes a look at…

SCVNGR

scvngr_bot_512Presumably pronounced ‘Scavenger’, SCVNGR is a relatively new player in the location-based apps market, though it seems to be gaining some good press over in the US.

How app-y does it make you?

Overall, this app has been the one that I’d heard the most hype about lately, but it also turned out to be the biggest disappointment. Admittedly, if it had better coverage in the UK, and functionality that actually worked, I can see that it would be a really good contender. Currently though, integration is weak and what you can actually DO on it is no different to the rest of the apps.

SCVNGR sets out it’s stall as a ‘Game’, pushing the challenge element as it’s bit USP. Most of the hype I’ve read about it has given examples (albeit the same ones over and over) of challenges that users can do, such as “Make a tinfoil hat out of your burrito wrapper” or “Do some origami with your sandwich foil”. These little creative elements made the app sound really appealing to me, but may actually prove to be it’s undoing.

You see, as a user in the UK I assumed the coverage might be a little weaker than the US. So I excitedly e-mailed the support team to ask if I could help them set up some challenges over here, to spread the word. The response I got back basically said “You need to pay to set up challenges, though if you can give us a REALLY good argument why we should let you then maybe we’ll consider it…”. Such a disappointment – as a keen early-adopter I don’t want to have to spend time convincing an app maker to let me make their app better – they should be snapping up users like me.

scvngr-mapWhen you try to add a challenge on the website, it basically says the same thing – more disturbingly, the part where they offer you the chance to apply for some ‘user’ credits if you’re not a brand asks you to e-mail them on an address called “grants@” – not very welcoming in my humble opinion.

Considering their “Check out who is building with SCVNGR” page looks like this, you’d think they’d be a bit more welcoming of enquiries from outside of the US…!

How about the website?

Overall it’s quite a sparse website – taking the ‘minimal’ look to extremes. You can set up your profile to display as either a “player” or a “builder” – though the difference between them is never really explained. Oddly, when I switch from player to builder it resets all my statistics – with no explanation as to why.

scvngr site

What sort of coverage do they have in the UK?

Very poor – I tested all of the apps this week in both Reading where I live and London where I work, assuming that one might be better covered than the other (you guess which!) However, check-ins in both Reading and London revealed almost no spots added at all. Some bright spark had added their own challenge and a couple of ‘trips’ around Reading town centre – presumably having managed to convince the SCVNGR support team to allow them the privilege…! But neither were particularly impressive (both challenges relied on taking a picture – dull!) and the amount of locations being added in London was similarly poor.

photo (19)What can brands do?

According to the Wikipedia page for the app:

“As of June 2010, Over 1000 companies, educational institutions, and organizations have built on SCVNGR by creating challenges (and often rewards) at their locations”

So it’s clear that the commercial element of SCVNGR is a big focus – in my opinion, possibly TOO much of a focus, bearing in mind how little interaction they seem to have so far. Having said that, if you do decide to step on to the SCVNGR band-wagon as a brand then the coverage you get seems to be on a par with the other applications out there. You can also find out their pricing levels VERY easily on their site, to their credit – prices for businesses start very low, at just $80 a month for the lowest level.

How easy is it for users to set up?

Fairly easy – very quick sign-up, though the role between the website and app is quite confusing. It also refused to pull in my profile photo from Facebook, forcing me to upload one from my PC.

Why should I choose this one?

Challenges make the concept a lot more fun, though the only examples I’ve seen in the UK are pretty weak, so it’s quite hard to tell what the real experience is like.

How ‘social’ is it?

Not very – it doesn’t let you find your friends on Twitter, only facebook – and even that doesn’t work very well. I know for a fact that a couple of my colleagues added themselves, for instance, but only one of them showed up when I tried their various different search options. Very strange…

In summary…

The IDEA of SCVNGR is certainly a lot of fun, and it’s clear that they’ve got some big backers – Google have apparently invested over $5 million in funding alone. But until they take their focus away from soley the USA, it’s going to be very hard to persuade people to make the switch.

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