Foursquare buys Placed from Snap to create location-measurement powerhouse

  •   September 27, 2019

Exactly two years ago Snap bought location analytics and attribution company Placed for $125 – $135 million. Placed was an early pioneer of location-based attribution for digital and traditional advertising. Last night, Foursquare announced it had acquired Placed from Snap for an undisclosed sum, but less than $150 million.

Foursquare simultaneously announced a new $150 million investment, its largest to date, led by The Raine Group. Reportedly that $150 million covers the acquisition and provides additional capital for expansion. Placed founder and CEO David Shim joins Foursquare’s executive team.

Foursquare says that the acquisition will help accelerate its product development and mission “to build the world’s most trusted, independent location technology platform.”

Foursquare evolution: check-in app to measurement provider. Foursquare launched at the SXSW conference in 2009 as a social check-in app and later pivoted to become a city guide and Yelp competitor. In 2014, it split into two apps: Foursquare and Swarm, with the latter intended to preserve the social media legacy of the early Foursquare. A couple of years later, Foursquare pivoted yet again into location analytics while still maintaining its consumer apps, which then became sources of first party location data.

Placed and Foursquare were essentially competitors in a crowded location intelligence and location attribution market. The combination will create a more powerful entity with a larger customer base. In the press materials announcing the acquisition, Foursquare cited some data to support its claim to industry leadership:

  • $100MM in location analytics/data revenue the last 12 months; more than 1,000 clients
  • Over $3 billion in media spend attributable to store visits from billions of impressions
  • Over 100MM unique devices in the U.S. (extended Foursquare and Placed networks)
  • Placed and Foursquare’s validated visits number over 13.1 billion to date

Largest in-store attribution provider. While a part of Snap, Placed operated as an independent business unit. This is a better fit, and Foursquare’s analytics platform “Foursquare Attribution” will merge into Placed and be rebranded “Placed powered by Foursquare.” The two companies characterized Placed “as the largest independent advertising to in-store attribution solution in-market.”

Placed uses first and third party in-app data, as well as panel-based measurement for advertising-to-store attribution. It will now have the benefit of a huge trove of first party data from Foursquare. This first-party data access will be significant as regulations, reduced browser cookie tracking and greater consumer awareness of privacy issues puts pressure on the third party data ecosystem. Accordingly, the acquisition may trigger other M&A activity in the segment.

Why we should care. Many trillions of dollars are spent by consumers on offline goods and services each year, dwarfing e-commerce. However, digital media drives a huge number of those purchases (think: search, reviews, map lookups). Location analytics are the key to tracking those online-to-store visits and transactions. Mobile location data can also be used for online retargeting. And location analytics are increasingly used for traditional media measurement: TV, direct mail, in cinema and out-of-home.

Placed has client relationships with scores of major brands, agencies and publishers. Foursquare says those client relationships include, “75 of the 100 most visited chains in the US” and “450+ publishers across digital, video, TV, and OOH.”

This kind of reach shows marketers increasingly recognize the value of location as a tool for audience understanding, targeting, analytics and competitive insights. Brands or agencies that aren’t utilizing location intelligence will soon be at a competitive disadvantage. (See our related story, How to choose a location data provider.)