As WeWork looks to expand the 235 office Locations it runs across 54 global cities — 23 of which are in the U.S. — the co-working operator has turned to geo-data insights from Factual’s Global Places software.
Since real estate, in addition to payroll and marketing, is one of the biggest challenges that multi-location brick-and-mortar businesses face, the idea of using location analytics to do more than just drive visits to a place reflects the growing use cases of geo-data in general and Factual’s business model in particular.
For the past few years, analytics has governed all facets of the marketing side of the business, but too few physical businesses apply those insights when it comes to deciding where they open their doors.
As WeWork concludes its seventh year, which started with a $4.4 billion investment from SoftBank’s Vision Fund, the company needs to balance its startup identity — after all, those are who its primary clients are — with the imperative to rapidly expand into new cities, new neighborhoods.
And that’s where Factual comes in. The geo-data specialist’s umbrella product, Global Places gathers data covering over 130 million local businesses and points of interest across 52 countries.
“Our real estate team surfaces myriad potential locations for our workspaces,” says Aaron Fritsch, head of product systems and operations at WeWork. “Every space and location has potential but this also means we need to evaluate each lease and consider each location carefully.”
Factual licenses access to its Global Places software to WeWork, which plugs it into its own data systems to help the company fine tune its decisions on where it needs to be, says Brian Czarny, Factual’s SVP Of Marketing.
A Self-Solution, Beyond Ads
For WeWork, Global Places, which is used by most major ad agency trading desks’ programmatic platforms to help target real-time advertising, is also a self-serve analytics tool to help understand neighborhoods, not just individual consumers.
“We provide updates to the data regularly, but we’re not providing any direct insight,” Czarny says. “We’re just giving them the means to understand the locations they’re evaluating to help them find the ideal places to bring in their ideal clients.”
Fritsch previously served as director of software for Case, which was billed as a “data-driven” building and architecture consultancy. WeWork acquired Case in August 2015 following a collaboration that went back to 2012. After the acquisition, WeWork went from 23 to 55 locations, and as Entrepreneur recently reported, Fritsch, who was promoted following the deal, was charged with speeding up the process of opening new locations.
While WeWork used heat maps to see basic geographical information such as population density, its software didn’t provide the details as to what sort of places were driving the flows of people to given areas. So Fritsch reached out to Factual.
“Factual’s data has given our team the ability to make better, faster assessments,” Fritsch tells GeoMarketing. “If we map a potential location and find that the neighborhood doesn’t have the right amenity mix, we’re able to move on without further exploration, freeing us up to look at more viable options.”
In terms of figuring out viable locations, Czarny notes that for a company like WeWork, once you get outside of a major metro city like New York, it becomes hard to identity high value potential locations and make a decision quickly.
“WeWork wanted to use data as a tool to make better use of their time in evaluating the best locations,” Czarny says. “With Global Places, they could plug it in to their analytics system, find certain types of amenities near locations that would help attract new tenants.”
Some of the amenities WeWork was looking for included high-traffic places such as coffee shops and fitness centers, as well as areas with active nightlife — in other words, locations that office workers might want to take advantage of outside of work during the daytime and after business hours.
“They want to better arm their sales teams to attract new customers and clients for their spaces,” Czarny says. “So in that sense, it continues the evolution we’ve been undertaking as well. But it also shows how we’ve come full circle. We originally got our start licensing our data to Google Places. Lately, we’ve been allowing customers to integrate our data into the products and services for companies such as Uber and Amazon, where they took our Places data, and then we moved more into marketing. With WeWork, it demonstrates that there is a lot of opportunity to leverage location data to understand the world around businesses and the patterns that consumers create.”