A growing number of companies, particularly those with branches in multiple locations, are using data analysis to drive sales, determine and manage brand reputation, refine operational efficiencies, respond to customer queries and deliver better customer experiences.

At the forefront of this marketing technology (martech) trend in South Africa – and with an expanding international footprint – is Social Places, which uses a mix of locally-developed software and managed services to automate processes and optimise commercial operations for multi-location clients.

The company offers an array of product suites structured around software that facilitates the following:

  • Managing online listings and GPS/mapping platforms
  • Centralising online reviews and customer feedback
  • Enabling brands to manage reputation centrally while equipping local branches with brand-approved templates to manage their messages in a decentralised manner
  • Targeted location-based digital advertising
  • Helping customers make online bookings quickly and easily

These all work independently or in unison to provide brands with a holistic solution to manage their online presence through the use of a single dashboard.

Self funded, growing exponentially

Founded in 2013, the company has more than doubled it’s staff complement the last year and now operates in 27 countries. Recurring revenue has increased more than 100% year-on-year. Says Ashleigh Wainstein, co founder and director: “In the year ahead we will extend our international footprint, explore managing reviews in different languages and help more business sectors gather business intelligence from their customer reviews and branch level social media activities.”

She says increasingly, in the Martech space, data driven location based marketing is becoming an important focus for businesses that want to consolidate and manage their activities and extract useful data from online platforms.

The power of aggregation and automation

“There is a strong and growing need for companies to better manage their social listings and reviews. Research from Nectafy shows 88% of consumer searches for local businesses on mobile devices result in either a call or a visit to the business within 24 hours.

“We started the business by manually managing online listings and quickly saw the need for automation. We aggregated more than 1.5 million reviews in the last year – double the number from the year before,” Wainstein says.

“Using our software, businesses are able to manage their listings on platforms like Facebook, TripAdvisor and Google Maps and get feedback from their clients which they can then use for operational and marketing activities, ” she says.

At the heart of location-based-marketing is “local intent” – customers search online with the intention of looking for a physical location to visit. Data-driven location-based marketing uses this high value consumer data to display relevant brand messaging to a highly-targeted audience, in their area.

Local content for franchisees

“Regional stores want to create their own local content that speaks to their community and they want to advertise their unique specials at their own times on social media. Consumers see this content as more authentic and valuable. At the same time brands still need control of their intellectual property and overall brand identity – our software supports this process for the store and franchisor,” says Wainstein.

“Companies are also able to make intelligent business decisions based on this data which is presented to them as consolidated reports on a single screen. They can tell exactly how many people have navigated to their stores, how many have clicked to call and how many people have seen their social media pages.” Wainstein says the reports are used by executives to measure customer sentiment – and act on it.

“If, for instance, there have been complaints about waiting times in a store or restaurant, operations personnel can go to these stores and address the issues within the business. Similarly, if customers compliment a special offer or certain product, marketing can use this data to promote similar offers which they know will be well received,” she says.

Accurate reporting and ROI

Social Places started in the restaurant sector and rapidly moved into retail, financial services and lifestyle. Clients include the Spur Group, Pepkor Group, Virgin Active, McDonald’s, Ocean Basket, Mica Hardware, Midas and Kauai.

Says Wainstein: “Interest in our technology and the business insights it delivers is a draw-card for a growing list of industries. The financial services and telecommunications sectors in particular are showing strong interest in the possibilities it affords them. Time-saving and  accurate reporting is desperately needed across the board and our bespoke software delivers an impact and return on investment from the start.”

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