As expected, Google has officially launched a new “check-in offers” product that connects its Google+ social network with business listings in Google Maps/Places. Mike Blumenthal first reported the check-in offers launch earlier today.
A Google Places help page explains how the program connects Google Places with Google+:
If your customers have to visit your locations in order to do business with you, you can request that they check-in on Google Maps for Mobile before they redeem your offer. To check in to places, users first sign in to Google+. They can choose to share the check-in publicly or with some of their circles, which helps spread the word about your business within their circles on Google+. They can also choose to keep their check-in private and still redeem an offer.
There’s no requirement that customers actually share the check-in on Google+, and probably never will be due to privacy concerns, so the connection is tenuous. Also noteworthy from Google’s help page is that check-ins are currently only supported on the Android version of Google Maps for Mobile, so it’s not a full/wide launch by any means.
As with Google’s past history with offer/coupon products in Google Maps/Places, the new check-in offers product is hidden quite deeply in the Google Places dashboard. It can be found down at the bottom of the Edit or Create page under the Google Places “Offers” tab.
There’s no notice to business owners on the dashboard that a new product is available. There’s also been no announcement or blog post from Google that I’ve found (yet).