Technology is giving companies ever more information and insight into their customers. Just think about how Google and Facebook tailor their offerings, reacting to your needs and preferences. This type of real-time insight has largely been the purview of companies with digital products, but an Australian startup, Local Measure, is extending it to brick and mortar businesses around the world.
The company collates the social data shared within a specific location — a hotel, a restaurant, a theme park. It collects and analyses Tweets, check-ins, Instagrams, videos and other social posts, allowing businesses to gauge sentiment in real time, to intervene if necessary, to act proactively when the opportunity arises. It could be as simple as recognising a return customer — offering them a service you know they love, or as big as tailoring a menu to accommodate trends.
— Local Measure (@localmeasure) May 25, 2016
Local Measure started its life as a consumer-facing service called Roamz. The app would scour social media to find places and events that were trending — a coffee shop that was getting lots of compliments, a theatre play getting rave reviews. As founder Jonathan Barouch describes it, Roamz was a way for people to discover interesting things going on.
“Consumer behaviour was shifting. You didn’t have to be a genius to see that people were moving from ratings and reviews, print and broadsheet media, to social and shared experiences,” says Barouch.
In the end Roamz did well — claiming more than a quarter of a million downloads, but it didn’t go nuts. It shared the experience of many other consumer services startups, notably Dropbox and Evernote — unless you achieve enormous scale, it’s really hard to monetise regular people. It’s much easier to convince a business to pay for a service than it is to convince a person to. And so, in 2013 the company pivoted. It became Local Measure, using its unique insight into local goings-on to inform businesses rather than consumers.
“Towards the end of our life, our venture financing, we had to make a choice — do we turn off the lights?” says Barouch.
“At that time we had company after company say ‘Jon we don’t give a **** about the consumer proposition. But the data you are collecting on our customers and our locations is super interesting — who’s there, who they are, how often they are coming, what they are saying, what they think of the service. [From] micro-insights right up to the bigger management trends that we don’t get from other data sets and we certainly don’t get live.’
“People were saying to us ‘if you do X we will pay you’. The first time you discount it, the second time you discount it, the tenth time you think; ‘either we turn off the lights, or we listen to our customers and cash their cheques and we have valdiation for a B2B SAAS business.”
Following the pivot, Local Measure has found a home in the services sector. Helping companies in tourism and hospitality to better understand their customers as well as fostering little delights — Barouch talks about a hotel that used the service to recognise a repeat customer that was health conscious, enabling it to substitute a healthy drink for wine as a welcome gift.
There are numerous levels of understanding and insight to be gleamed as people share their thoughts and experiences. Local Measure can already parse the language we use in our posts — understanding what we are talking about and allowing frontline staff to react. But the location is the secret sauce — most of the data is already public, it’s just not valuable or useable for most companies.
“When you use location as the common demoninator, it creates a link that you can draw relationships and correlations between different data sets,” says Sara Axelrod, Local Measure’s chief operating officer.
“A lot of these data sets exist independently. They are really hard for companies to make sense out of. Location becomes a really interesting lens to view and make sense of them.”
Location can also be an interesting source of data in itself. Take the example of a theme park, where Local Measure could create a heatmap of where people are sharing content, and look for specific feedback from different areas.
“You can actually see the feedback from some specific rides. The other day, in this particular park, a ride broke down. And you could start seeing this particular park getting inundated with negative feedback about the ride being broken down,” says Barouch.
Right now Local Measure only captures data and insights on a subsection of customers — technologically capable, active and sharing on social media platforms. But as these technologies become more ubiquitous, as the digitally native population grows, the data pie will grow. And Local Measure hopes to grow with it.