Why Businesses Will Benefit from the Location Marketing Roll-Up

The great location marketing roll-up is in full swing. In recent months, we’ve seen a flurry of merger/acquisition activity from location marketing vendors (including mine) across North America. Significant M&A activity has ranged from Snapchat’s acquisition of Placed to Gannett/ReachLocal acquiring SweetIQ. The location marketing roll-up is more than a story of vendors increasing scale. It’s a sign of the location-marketing sector becoming more valuable to businesses.

A Landmark IPO

The first landmark event of the roll-up wasn’t even an acquisition. On April 13, 2017, Yext went public with a $115 million IPO on its way to achieving a $1.27 billion market capitalization (as of May 2018). The announcement achieved a couple of important outcomes:

  • The IPO was like a clarion call for the industry. CEO Howard Lerman spoke of location marketing in bold terms, declaring our sector a “winner take all market” and a catalyst for growth. He elevated the location marketing industry to investor-oriented media such as CNBC.
  • Through its heavy investment in marketing and communications, Yext helped marketers think of location marketing differently – from a platform for publishing data to a knowledge engine that would make brick-and-mortar businesses smarter and more present wherever consumers live in the digital world. Yext would go on to refine its message, describing itself as a “Digital Knowledge Management” with a mission to “give companies control over their brand experiences across the digital universe of maps, apps, search engines, voice assistants, and other intelligent services that drive consumer discovery, decision, and action.” Yext wasn’t saying anything new, and its message is not unique. But the company was spending a lot of money to elevate a compelling message being told by his competitors and partners.

Fortuitous Timing

Yext’s timing was fortuitous. At about the time of the Yext IPO, Google was making major moves to elevate the value of location marketing. As I wrote in Street Fight, Google was rolling out more tools to make it possible for businesses to measure and manage the value of their location marketing efforts. Google was making it possible for businesses to capitalize on micro-moments, or instances when people make decisions about what to buy, what to do, and where to visit. Google created the term micro-moment to dramatize the way people were using their mobile devices to discover brands and do business with them at a local level, often instantaneously. Google created tools to help brands manage their location data and content to win when micro-moments happen.

Developments such as Google elevating the value and Yext elevating the visibility of location marketing were helping both marketing executives and vendors think about creating a larger location marketing platform that could deliver measurable results. Both clients and vendors alike saw the evolution going on, and clients were pressuring vendors to deliver on the more ambitious promise of location marketing – from managing data to managing a business.

The Roll-up Begins

In due course, we saw a number of mergers happen as vendors capitalized on the opportunity to create more measurable platforms to attract consumers wherever consumers experience micro-moments whether on Snapchat, Google My Business, Facebook, Yelp, or anywhere else people discover brands locally. Consider:

  • April 20, 2017: Gannett/ReachLocal acquired SweetIQ to create a more measurable way to manage brands’ content and reputation locally through improved listings.
  • April 21, 2017: Ignite Technologies Acquired Placeable to make location marketing more measurable.
  • June 5, 2017: Snapchat acquired Placed to make online-to-offline local advertising on Snapchat more measurable.
  • July 3, 2017: Dex Media acquired to create a more efficient content publishing platform.
  • February 28, 2018: acquired SIM Partners to deepen vertical-marketing expertise locally and to create a more robust platform that combines reputation management and location/data management.

So, what can businesses expect from these acquisitions? I believe four benefits will result:

  • Marketers will be able to solve big-time problems such as growing their businesses more profitably through location marketing. In time, the consolidated companies will be better equipped to turn digital touch points such as social media, search engines, maps and ratings & reviews into customer acquisition platforms that can properly track cross channel attribution.
  • Marketers will become better business leaders. Vendors that possess strong attribution reporting through analytics will be able to give marketers better insight into which locations are performing better than others. Those insights will help marketers become more sensitive to operational issues that affect customer acquisition and retention. For instance, a vendor with better analytics will be able to tell a retailer that one brick-and-mortar store may have suffered a drop-off in foot traffic because construction in the store’s parking lot has been lagging and making it harder for customers to find parking. That insight will make a marketer a better operations-minded executive.
  • Life for the client should become easier. On a practical level, having fewer vendors to manage means that decisions should be easier to make and execute, among the other typical benefits of working with one partner who can do it all instead of a stable of vendors.
  • Ultimately the clients will benefit from increased efficiency, improved performance and less friction.

The great location marketing roll-up should mean fewer headaches for business, yes – but even more importantly, more valuable services and products to support business growth.

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