If you watch the technology around sales and marketing closely, you’ll know that beacon technology is all the rage. Stores can purchase beacon broadcasting equipment, and when shoppers enter their stores with beacon-enabled apps, the apps will respond to the beacon signals – even if not in use. Stores see nirvana in pushing sale offers and the like to customers who are already on the premises. And of course, it is expected that some mainstream apps (Twitter is often cited, though this is unconfirmed) will become beacon-enabled as well.

Beacons represent a concrete manifestation of the larger frenzy surrounding geolocation. Everyone wants to know where consumers are at any given moment, as epitomized by big players such as Foursquare, which has evolved from its gimmicky “check ins” to become more of a location-driven discovery service.

That’s why I was so intrigued by Foursquare’s most recent product announcement called Pinpoint. Shifting its focus from where people are now, Pinpoint is going to mine valuable insights around where people have been and let companies use it for precise ad targeting.

Details about Pinpoint are scarce right now, but Foursquare is smart to start mining its historical data. At the lowest level, it means that Foursquare can help, say, Starbucks target lots of Starbucks customers. Useful, but not too sophisticated. If Pinpoint can roll up businesses by type (such as pet food stores), it starts to get a lot more interesting. But the real home run would be to be able to divine purchase intent. If someone visits three car dealers in a short period of time, you suddenly have an amazingly valuable sales lead. And mining insights like this is now practical with Big Data tools.

But the real insight here is that your history data isn’t just ancient history: it provides the multiple data points you need to find patterns and trends. Knowing that a company replaces its CEO every 18 months or so is a hugely valuable insight that you can identify simply by comparing your current data to your historical data. At a minimum, you’ve got a powerful sales lead for recruiters. But that level of volatility might be a signal of a company with problems, thus creating useful insights in a business or competitive intelligence context. We’ve all heard about the predictive powerful of social media sentiment analysis. You may have equally valuable insights lurking in your own data. All you need to do is shine a light on them.

How Starbucks in Mall of America looks to Foursquare

How Starbucks in Mall of America looks to Foursquare