- Location-based marketing firm inMarket acquired rival Thinknear as the geotargeting industry consolidates. As part of the deal, Thinknear's parent company Telenav will get a minority stake in inMarket, per an announcement. Terms of the deal, which is expected to close by the end of next month, weren't disclosed.
- InMarket will own the intellectual property of Thinknear, whose employees will join the merged company to almost double its headcount. InMarket's existing clients will gain access to Thinknear's services such as Geotype, which helps to reach mobile audiences based on location and demographics, and Geolink, a self-serve, location-based mobile ad platform, per inMarket's website.
- Telenav, the provider of connected-car and location-based services among 24.2 million cars, plans to work with inMarket to target consumers with in-car advertising, per a separate statement. Telenav yesterday said its annual loss narrowed to $32.5 million for fiscal 2019 from $40.8 million a year earlier, while revenue rose 1% to $220.9 million.
InMarket's acquisition of Thinknear follows Foursquare's purchase in June of location-tracking firm Placed from Snap, Snapchat's parent company, as the location-based marketing industry consolidates. Location-based advertising is a promising application for connected devices including smartphones and cars, but it's not clear that the industry has become profitable yet, because most companies in the industry are privately held and don't publicly report financial results that would offer more insight into their performance. However, the outlook appears to be positive for location analytics, with spending on such services set to grow to $15 billion by 2023 from $8.35 billion in 2017, according to a report from mobile data company Placer.ai cited by Bloomberg.
Location data helps to boost the effectiveness of ad campaigns, according to a report in June by location data provider Factual. The information plays a key role in omnichannel sales with 70% of marketers using a mobile-first strategy for customer engagement, per a separate study. Geotargeted advertising underpins mobile-based promotions such as Burger King's conquesting campaign aimed at McDonald's customers last year. Similarly, McDonald's relied on location data collected by Placed to measure the response to a Halloween-themed influencer campaign last year.
Despite the promises around location data, it faces challenges with accuracy and how relevant it is for targeting. Privacy concerns present a significant challenge to the location-based marketing industry. In the absence of a federal law, U.S. states and cities are developing their own patchwork of regulations in response to consumer concerns about privacy amid high-profile incidents like Equifax's massive data breach and Facebook's Cambridge Analytica scandal. As federal efforts sputter, California is setting the national agenda for consumer privacy with the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) that takes effect in January. The law will give consumers more control over their personal information and allow them to sue businesses for security breaches even if they cannot prove injury. Trade associations representing businesses are expected to seek exemptions to the law during the remaining weeks of the state's legislative session, Politico reported.
On a more local level, New York City is weighing whether to ban the controversial practice of selling location data of mobile users, eliminating a source of revenue for telecommunications companies and apps that collect the information. San Francisco voters last year approved a ballot measure that requires companies to disclose their data practices and secure customer data to win city contracts. The City of Los Angeles in January sued developers of the Weather Channel app, accusing them of deceptively collecting location data from millions of U.S. mobile users.