Q&A with Foursquare: how Pilgrim SDK drives user engagement for entertainment apps

Victoria Heath Unsplash

From the rise of streaming services to the success of social media video solutions, entertainment apps continue to gain popularity among audiences. However, it’s no longer enough to just design a cool app. It must have compelling features and rich functionality that motivates its users to stay engaged.

As a senior director of platform sales at Foursquare, Chris Phenner coaches product and development teams on how to create enriching app experiences using location context. We also discussed Foursquare’s industry-leading location SDK, Pilgrim, and how some of the largest brands have used our technology to boost user retention.

Tell us about yourself?

Hi, I’m Chris. I live in Chicago, and I have worked 20-plus years in technology. While I’ve been working in the industry for a long time it was my first job selling a SDK for the Mosaic Browser that opened my eyes to the power of useful code in improving third-party app experiences. I’ve been fortunate enough to have a similar position at Foursquare, working with partners to identify how they can use mobile to reach and engage their customers.

What would you build with our superpower, Pilgrim SDK?

I love how apps can help elevate what I call “predictable moments” for users. For example, one of my clients— a major media and entertainment company—uses Pilgrim to understand the foot traffic patterns and habits of their users to help inform engagement efforts.

Imagine you’re at the gym during your lunch hour, and you receive a notification that says, “Break a sweat by listening to this pump-it-up soundtrack!” How could that not get you in the right headspace to dominate your workout? This is a great example of the power of location context and personalized push to drive app engagement. In fact, my client has sent over half a million push notifications geared towards gym enthusiasts, to date.

Now, think about the business benefit. When app engagement doubles or triples—as in the case of my client—you can monetize your app more effectively, such as demanding a higher CPM from advertisers.

What’s your favorite Pilgrim SDK feature and why?

Again, I’d like to use an example from that same client to show the power of location technology. In order for them to target users more effectively based on behavioral insights, they used Pilgrim SDK to understand the interests and affinities of their app users. This was made possible by monitoring their users’ visits to specific chains and categories in order to build rich audience cohorts. As a result, my client delivered more personalized ad experiences, which resulted in higher user engagement and increased ad revenue. What’s more, this use case revealed the need to create one of our newer features, SDK Segments.

SDK Segments unlocks 17-prebuilt audience personas that enable product leaders to intelligently target their users based on historical foot traffic movements. Currently available to customers that upgrade to our enterprise tier, SDK Segments is powered by years of Foursquare data science and analysis of visit patterns.

What tips do you have for independent developers about Pilgrim SDK?

The broadest answer to the question, no matter your use case or industry, is to focus on user engagement. Regardless of whether you work at a multi-billion dollar conglomerate or are an independent developer, the success of your app is wholly dependent on your ability to create meaningful experiences for your users. My recommendation: Experiment with some of the cool features that are available with the free tier of Pilgrim SDK, and see what you can come up with!

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