If your company or client has multiple locations, such as a restaurant or retail chain, then you need a location-based monitoring and analytics solution. An interview with MomentFeed founder Rob Reed.
First, we wrote that geolocation would be the trend for 2010. Next, we added geolocation as a fundamental topic, alongside social media and green living. Most recently, we cross-posted 10 Ways Geolocation is Changing the World on more than 100 blogs (Guy Kawasaki re-posted it just yesterday). All of which is culminating with the launch of MomentFeed, a first-of-its-kind analytics solution designed to monitor geosocial engagement across hundreds or thousands of physical locations. Indeed, it’s like Google Analytics for the real world.
MomentFeed was founded by Rob Reed and “a group of marketing and technology executives who believe the nexus of mobile, social, and location amounts to the Holy Grail of marketing,” according to the company website. Rob is also the founder of Max Gladwell. The company recently launched its first product—known as Location Engagement Analytics (LEA)—in beta. To learn more about it, we conducted our third one-on-one interview with Rob in as many years.
Max Gladwell (MG): Tell us a little more about MomentFeed. What does the company do?
Rob Reed (RR): MomentFeed solves a big problem for companies that have any more than 10 or 20 locations. With the rapid adoption of location-based services (LBS), consumers are engaging or “checking-in” to millions of places on a daily basis, and there are no fewer than 20 different applications worth noting so far, not the least of which are Facebook and Twitter. On the Web, companies like Subway and Starbucks have one website and one brand to manage. In the real world, they have tens of thousands of brick-and-mortar locations, each of which is now behaving like a website thanks to smarthphones. Our LEA solution provides a single, dedicated interface to monitor, measure, and manage all of this activity.
RR: Yeah, that’s pretty much it. We store client locations in our database and match those to the venues on Facebook Places, Foursquare, Twitter Places, and Gowalla (with Whrrl and others to follow). This is actually one of the biggest challenges because each service has it’s own place database, many of which are user generated. Plus, retrieving the right place typically relies on some human intervention. In other words, a location query gives you multiple results, and you have to manually choose the right one. In order to scale our solution, we had to develop a place-matching algorithm that’s accurate without human intervention. It’s a big part of our IP.
MG: What type of location analytics does LEA provide?
RR: First, you can see how many people have engaged (checked-in) with your locations—this is your location traffic—on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis. The interface is a lot like Google Analytics, but you’re potentially monitoring thousands of places at once. So you can view this activity in the aggregate for all locations or filter down by state, individual location, or a custom group of locations. We’ve also developed a qualitative metric known as an Engagement Score. This measures how deeply people engaged beyond the checkin by leaving comments, writing reviews, or taking photos. The score is represented on a 100-point scale, and it’s independent of traffic volume.
MG: Sounds like some good information, but what does one do with it?
RR: That’s a good question, and the answer can vary from company to company. First and foremost, LEA is a listening and measurement device for LBS. If big brands are going to effectively utilize this new channel, they first have to monitor what’s happening and understand the dynamics of LBS. Most campaigns so far have been about testing or generating quick PR. No one is really moving the needle. Not yet. This is partly a function of scale, but execution has a lot to do with it. With our solution, companies can measure and optimize campaigns across multiple services at the local, regional, and national level. LEA is designed for performance and ROI. As cliche as it may sound, we’re positioned to take LBS marketing to the next level.
MG: Are there MomentFeed competitors or is this a wide-open space?
RR: There are a handful of startups with similar products, which definitely validates the model. But we’re uniquely positioned in terms of (a) the market we’re after, (b) how we integrate with the larger LBS ecosystem, and (c) the value we provide. Our vision is clear and focused. From previous experience, we know exactly what we have to do to execute, but it won’t be easy. In addition to the technical challenges, there is a lot of sales and business development. Incidentally, our timing has been fantastic. We started the first development cycle two weeks before Facebook announced Places in August, and we finished a week after the Places API went public.
MG: Are you planning to add more data sources…other LBS providers? What does your roadmap look like?
RR: Our roadmap has two paths. First, we will be adding new data sources like Whrrl, which already has a public API, as well as SCVNGR, Yelp, Loopt, and Google Places which don’t yet. Next, we’ll add new data types from the current data sources such as demographic, loyalty, and sentiment information.
MG: In terms of the proliferation of different LBS applications, do you see a limit? Will the space consolidate into one or two big winners?
RR: I have no doubt that there will be big winners, but it’s far from winner-take-all. I look at the LBS space more like media, where you’ll certainly have the NewsCorp, NBC Universal, and New York Times of LBS. But you’ll also have hundreds of mid-sized players and thousands of small players consisting of local, regional, and niche-interest apps, each of which share a “location-based engagement” feature. We’re already seeing this with apps like Foodspotting and Instagram. Each has a significant and growing user base, and both would qualify as a data or traffic source for MomentFeed.
MG: How do companies sign up for your beta?
RR: They contact us directly. It starts with providing a csv file of their addresses followed by a product demo. Then they’re up and running with our trial version. This provides traffic and engagement monitoring for all of their locations at no cost. The full-featured version, which is fee based, adds deeper analytics and the ability to monitor competitor locations.
MG: Is your solution open to any company?
RR: Actually, no. LEA isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. In any business, it’s important to know who your customers are but also who they aren’t. This is part of our focus. The value curve for LEA starts to ramp up at about 20 locations. Which isn’t to say there’s no value for fewer locations, especially when you add competitors, but our sweet spot is when you get into the hundreds. That said, we’re looking at some channel partnerships to service the sub-20-location market.
MG: How about running campaigns? The analytics are cool, but LBS is so new that most companies are probably still at a loss.
RR: This would fall under our value-added services. We’ll work with clients to develop a comprehensive LBS marketing strategy. There are a lot of moving parts given multiple services, multiple locations and regions, different promotional mechanisms, and a variety of objectives. But this is also what the LEA solution is designed to track and measure.
MG: So who are your clients?
RR: I’m not at liberty to discuss our beta clients, though I can say they total more than 10,000 locations. In general, though, we work with two types: marketing agencies and large brands. We consider agencies our partners and offer unique programs including a co-branded LEA solution. To be clear, though, we’re not in the business of executing on campaigns or doing any type creative or media buying. We can provide the strategy, intelligence, and relationships to enable an LBS marketing campaign, but execution is handled by an agency or internal team.
MG: What if LBS doesn’t take off like you think it will? Is there a backup plan?
RR: I have little doubt that LBS will become one of the biggest advertising segments since direct mail and television. I say this with confidence because marketers have a huge interest in making this happen. They have every reason in the world to migrate their customers to this channel through various incentives. Think about it. Customers are both present and engaged—they’re in the moment, in your stores with wallet in hand and the ability to share the experience with their social graph. The promotions marketers serve can then be more relevant, personal, and valuable. It’s the Holy Grail for these types of marketers. That said, our business model is not dependent on LBS. We have two more products in development that are location-agnostic.
MG: So this is our third “one-on-one interview,” which is code for interviewing yourself. How do you think it went?
RR: Admittedly, there were a lot of softball questions, but that’s one of its advantages. It really comes back to the obligation—the imperative—to tell your story the way you want it told before anyone else has a chance to do it for you. You certainly can’t count on the press to get it right. And once people do start writing about you, it can take a life of its own. It’s important to have a foundation to your story, and this is ours.