We don't know what the future will bring. Within reason. I do know that in three days I will interview Denis Crowley. So, that has me thinking a lot about the future of online / offline / web / mobile retail. 

This post was written by Douglas Crets, Social Media Strategist of Microsoft BizSpark, which gives free software and support to any startup in the world that is making less than one million in revenue and less than five years old. He also hosts a weekly talk show on Livestream called Startuplandia. It airs every Thursday at 3pm Pacific.

I think that Foursquare holds one of the better positions for exploiting what Dave Holmes at Pando Daily refers to as daily deals sites bleeding each other dry. The daily deals market serves a need, but the problem with the need it serves is that the daily deal itself is not the proper medium for satisfying it. 

Consumers are loyal to one thing, above all else -- their own needs and behavior. They will choose the thing that services that. A daily deal will only be able to cover the occasional need, at best. At the least, it may lead someone to become interested in a thing, a shop, or an offer. The problem with daily deals is that they are basically digital offers that cannot create habits for any one shop or retailer that seeks to gain customers from them.

This is something that Foursquare can do, because Foursquare is a layer. As I say in this postI think in the space of opportunity, Foursquare has a very big edge in being a consumer’s weapon of choice in finding daily deals. It can’t be that daily deals find success in being just the offer. The shopping process is exactly that, a process. That requires an app that has a base, and an operation. At the end of the day, daily deals are just coupons. Nobody is loyal to coupons. 

When you take an app like Foursquare, with its massive amounts of consumer purchasing data, as well as its business partnerships with commerce businesses like AMEX, and then mix that with a digital interface that is environmental, as well as mobile, you have suddenly a very new kind of retail experience. 

I was talking with Justin Williams the other day. He's one half of a startup in the Microsoft Accelerator for Windows Azure, powered by TechStars. We were talking about the future of pop-up retail, and it looks like this: augmented reality; location awareness; habit tracking; and crowd sourcing preferences and tastes. 

Or, some dude with an AR kit on his eyes. 

Digital storefronts that are hooked to facial recognition software, or mobile location apps like Foursquare. The town square can monitor and aggregate the data cloud of what is happening to whom in the square and then configure its store offerings in the environment to the populace that passes through. Foursquare is actually totally on top of this, if you think about it. With so much data, and a realtime awareness system, we realize that everything -- stores and their shoppers; cities and their citizens -- are all momentary pieces of an ever changing data landscape. 

Heraclitus never completed his original thought. It's not that you never step into the same river twice. It's that you never step in the same river once. The future is a definition of the past, and the trouble with that is that the future has no business being a reflection of the past. it's murky with the present, which is a reaction to the past. I think with apps like Foursquare, used in configuration with new ways to present data and read crowds, we have a bright future for retail that may completely alter what we know about what we want, when we want it, and how we want it served. 

Goodbye Daily Deals. Daily deals were a momentary exercise that showed us that nobody will stick to one category. We will always shift our attention to the next bright and shiny thing. But something like Foursquare will track that change, and make sure we stay consistent in our habits. Retailers will use something like Foursquare to keep up, to make sure retailers develop their own habits in line with ours. 

Robert Oschler, a Microsoft BizSpark member, picked up on this, and we had a brief conversation about this, which I will include here: