There really is such a thing as being a victim of your own success. And for brands with large brick-and-mortar footprints one manifestation of this phenomenon is bad location data online. It’s easy for users to blame Google or Apple Maps, Foursquare, Yelp, or any other Web cum mobile platform when getting bad directions or contact information for local businesses. But in reality, the fault lays on the brands who have done a poor job verifying and maintaining the accuracy of their location information.
This is not entirely the fault of brands. Once a company gets over 100 locations, managing all this – often frequently changing – information becomes a monumental task. And until recently, it was a task that had to be done manually, through the use of spreadsheets and disparate interfaces within each consumer platform.
Placeable, which rebranded this week from LocationInsight, aims to solve this problem through the launch of a new commercial location management and marketing platform of the same name. Whereas the company has previously offered only a high-touch enterprise grade solution – now called Placeable Pages – to large brands like Bank of America, Western Union, Nationwide, and AMEX, the newly-launched Placeable.com is a self-service platform available to agencies and brands of all sizes.
“Inaccurate and dirty location data costs U.S. businesses over $10 billion in lost sales every year,” says Placeable CEO Ari Kaufman. “It’s not Google’s fault when you pull up to a vacant building in your car using Google Maps instead of the place you intended. The listing was at fault. Advertisers are providing the ecosystem with bad data—and the bigger the advertiser, the dirtier the data.”
Placeable’s solution is to offer these brands and agencies a single repository into which they can map multiple data streams, such as those from various company departments, regional offices, and disparate software platforms, only to have it cleansed and normalized into a single – hopefully more accurate – database. This data can then be distribute back out to search engines, directories, maps, local pages, and social networks in real-time. The service is available for a monthly subscription of $299 plus $2 for each location managed. (Enterprise-grade, high-touch Placeable Pages engagements are negotiated on an individual basis.)
Users can also view each location on a map and compare where Google, Bing, Yahoo, Yelp, and others indicate that the business is located – which tends to vary widely. The user can then select a single, correct location for the business and push this information, along with the correct address, contact information, hours of operation, and other pertinent details out to all the major consumer Web platforms.
For example, during the recent Hurricane Sandy along the Eastern seaboard, Placeable was updating information in real-time on which of its clients’ ATMs and gas pumps were empty, and which were in working order.
“You’d be surprised how frequently this data changes, for any number of reasons,” Kaufman says. “Users receive inaccurate information nearly 20 percent of the time when using a mobile mapping apps.”
There is no arguing the need in this market, but Placeable isn’t alone in trying to address it. LA-based MomentFeed offers a similar location data normalization services to Fortune 1000 brands like 7-Eleven, Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, and JCPenney. On the small- and medium-sized business front, Locu (acquired this week by GoDaddy) has been a category leader by helping restaurants and service professionals distribute accurate contact and product information across the Web.
At the same time, third-party database companies like Factual and Freebase have been entering data sharing partnerships and scraping the Web for global “places data,” and in turn licensing it out to partners like Facebook, Foursquare, and Yelp – although these companies wouldn’t be direct competitors to Placeable.
Given that Placeable claims to power more than 2 million locations currently in 195 countries for its premium brand clients, it may be the largest location data management platform in the world. And with today’s addition of a self-serve solution, that lead looks likely to increase.
“There are plenty of solutions for distributing data,” Kaufman says. “But there’s no one capable of managing and cleansing location information at the scale the we can.”
Placeable is based in Denver and was spun out of InfoNow in August 2012 (at the time it was named LocationInsight) by its current management team, in conjunction with $5 million in financing from United Communications Group (UCG). UCG is a private equity operating company that offers its portfolio companies outsourced back office services, including accounting, finance, HR, Legal, IT, and corporate development, at cost. Placeable has 40 employees currently, and is in the process of building out its inside sales team.
This is Kaufman’s fifth company, and the rest of his senior team boasts similar experience. This doesn’t guarantee success, but the fact that they’ve all bought into the Placeable vision speaks to the magnitude of the opportunity.
Going forward, location data will play a key role in establishing brands’ presence across the consumer Web. Placeable appears intent on claiming the bulk of that market opportunity.