Roamz, a local search and discovery startup that has been struggling to gain traction as a consumer-facing service, is shifting its focus again. This time, it’s shopping its aggregated location-based data to businesses and retailers under new branding “Local Measure.” And though only a few weeks old, Local Measure already has paying customers, the company says.
For background, Roamz first launched just over a year ago as a local search service, which focused on serendipitous discovery of nearby businesses, shops, and events. But serendipity, founder Jonathan Barouch later admitted, just wasn’t a use case. So like all good startups do, he made a change. In August, Roamz refocused on local search, following user intent.
This, too, failed to catch fire, Barouch now says. The mobile app was approaching 200,000 downloads, but it wasn’t good enough. “We were struggling to monetize,” he says. Two hundred thousand downloads, he adds, is sort of okay – especially for a startup based in Australia. “But no one’s interested until, arguably, even a hundred million,” he adds.
Barouch speaks of meeting with advertisers and major retailers in the U.S. and Asia – folks who are only now even starting to think about Instagram. They were interested in Roamz’s data, but not in advertising on a consumer-facing service as small it was.
“We’d say, ‘do you want to advertise?’, and they would kind of start laughing at us,” he confesses. “It was really disconcerting.” But he then asked them, given that the businesses knew Roamz’s numbers before the meeting, why they agreed to take the meeting in the first place? “The feedback was ‘we’re not interested in advertising with this app, but the data you’re pulling out about our stores is really interesting,’” Barouch explains.
The businesses were interested in Roamz’s proprietary technology which uses geo-location to find and discover activity taking place publicly on social media – even when a brand name is not directly mentioned. It pulls in public check-in data from Facebook and Foursquare, plus geo-tagged tweets and Instagram updates, then matches that content to a location. As a consumer service, the idea was to help people discover what’s nearby that the locals like. But for businesses, the data was a real eye-opener.
“We’re scooping up a whole lot more data at a store level than other folks doing social monitoring,” Barouch says, explaining that many businesses are today using tools that track brand mentions across social media. “But when you think about consumer behavior, that’s only a small percentage of people who are actually going to tag a photo back to the brand or tweet at the brand,” he says. Local Measure finds the content taken at the business, that doesn’t actually reference the business.
With Local Measure, the company is also helping businesses onboard onto the platforms where consumer activity is taking place, so they can respond and reply to customers. And for those with multiple accounts, the platform makes it easy to respond by automatically switching to the appropriate social media handle for the location being addressed. An online dashboard also offers analytics, showing how many people are talking, where the conversations are taking place, what platforms are being used, how the volume is changing, and more.
Businesses are offered a 30-day free trial, then have to convert to a paid account to continue the monitoring. Smaller businesses with one account are $59/month, while those with multiple accounts are $99/month. Enterprise pricing is handled on a case-by-case basis. Today, 50 or so businesses have signed up in the few weeks Local Measure has been live, and under the radar. Some of the earlier testers have now converted to paying users.
As for the consumer-facing app Roamz, Barouch says he honestly doesn’t know what the plan is – for now, the service is still running. But maybe a few more paid invoices at Local Measure will convince him it’s okay to say goodbye, though?