Earlier this week, Uberall was selected by the Gannett company to be their technology partner to provide presence management solutions. With 250 local newspapers and the USA TODAY property, Gannett is seeking to transition from delivering audiences via newspaper advertising to a full-fledged digital marketing services provider.
The company began that journey a few years ago when it bought Google’s largest single reseller — ReachLocal. Around the same time, the company acquired SweetIQ, a Montreal-based listings management company. Now Uberall will acquire SweetIQ and begin the process of blending it into their overall operating model.
Logical Evolution in Relationship
Yesterday, we spoke with Lex ten Veen, EVP Strategic Partnerships at Uberall about the opportunity. As a refresher, Lex joined Uberall via its acquisition of Navads where Lex was the CEO.
Lex told us that this was the logical evolution at Gannett. After all, Uberall had been the provider of location and presence management solutions to Gannett’s ReachLocal for quite some time.
He also noted that the company (Uberall) “has really grown up and was able to take the learnings from the Navads acquisition and to make this deal happen.” Uberall has a lot a stake in North America as it has evolved into one of the largest players in the industry, with a global footprint and more than 1.25 million locations under management.
As time moves forward, Lex believes the market for location and presence management solutions will consolidate among two or three major technology players. He believes the location presence industry is about 10 years old now. And “a lot of opportunistic players who entered the space over that period will not make it going forward”.
As this natural selection process goes forward, it was increasingly difficult for a captive, and smallish, company like SweetIQ to have the necessary scale to drive important product innovation.
It”s important to note that “listings management” is increasingly perceived as a commodity, which adds to the pressure to innovate. Much this has to do with Google and its emphasis on Google My Business (GMB). Uberall is building a more holistic suite of tools and capabilities that address much more than simply name, address, phone number (NAP) data syndicated across directory sites.
Localogy Video: Lex ten Veen on the Evolution of Listings Management
From Local Search to Conversational Commerce
By partnering with Uberall, Gannett can shift away from owning technology and trying to keep it up to date. Now it can rely on a partner with global scale and the engineering chops to deliver compelling “near me” solutions to consumers on behalf of Gannett’s millions of local business customers.
Lex also made it clear that while the industry began as part of the “local search experience, the world is entering a phase of where conversational commerce and immediacy will be important market differentiators”. We have a similar vision. We believe that the world will expand beyond local search. One clear path is conversational commerce driven by the world of voice-triggered search on home and in-car devices. The contours of what conversational commerce looks like in two or three years have yet to be drawn.
Lex made it clear that the SweetIQ team would be joining the Uberall. The team will morph into Uberall’s North American hub for supporting and servicing its North American partners.
He also believes the company needed to “localize more of its operations as it has achieved considerable growth in North America in the last 18 to 24 months”. Having this team in North America enables the company to deliver even better customer support. Now, support teams are located many time zones away.
Lex also noted that while “Uberall is investing heavily in advanced technology like AI to drive simplification, the nature of location commerce is increasingly complex.” He added that having strong customer success and support organization is a must.
Boosting Competitive Intensity
This latest move in the location management space will amplify the competitive intensity among the key players. Most specifically YEXT and Uberall. It would not surprise us if both companies make acquisitions over the next year or two to accelerate their product and engineering efforts. And also to drive non-organic growth.
One huge opportunity is just sitting out there. It is, of course, Apple’s effort to offer a viable and differentiated competitor to Google in local search and commerce. If we were in YEXT or Uberall’s leadership, we’d be making sure to be on Apple’s radar. Because you never know when Apple will decide that buying will be faster than building. Fun times for all for sure.