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Yelp Acquires Turnstyle For $20 Million To Build Location-Marketing, Loyalty Platform

'Turnstyle helps connect businesses to consumers through free public wifi, and is an effective retention and loyalty program that helps businesses be more successful,' says Yelp CEO Jeremy Stoppelman.

Yelp is buying public wifi provider Turnstyle as the local guide platform seeks to offer location-based marketing and loyalty/rewards programs to the SMBs and national enterprises it serves.

The terms of deal has Yelp acquiring all of Turnstyle’s outstanding capital stock for approximately $20 million, paid in cash.

Wifi vs Beacons

Unlike the hurdles associated with beacon-based proximity marketing — the need to download a store’s branded app, have a smartphone’s Bluetooth receiver turned on — consumers tend to understand a push notification for in-store wifi in an uncomplicated way.

Plus, the communications from wifi signals are more expansive than the several feet necessary for a beacon to make a connection to a customer’s device. As we’ve noted, about 49 percent of consumers say they don’t mind the marketing messages sent by proximity platforms as long as there is a clear value exchange (i.e., the push notifications are relevant to their shopping needs).

Toronto, Canada-based Turnstyle was founded in 2012 as a location-based marketing and analytics platform that uses the offer of free, public wifi as a digital marketing tool. The service currently supports nearly 3,500 business locations worldwide.

As part of Yelp, Turnstyle’s service offers businesses tools to harness their guest wifi as an easy way to keep in touch with customers who visit their locations in order to drive repeat visits and in-store sales.

“We’re excited to expand our product offering for local businesses through this acquisition. Turnstyle helps connect businesses to consumers through free public Wi-Fi, and is an effective retention and loyalty program that helps businesses be more successful,” said Yelp CEO Jeremy Stoppelman.

Yelp’s Performance Marketing Evolution

The purchase of Turnstyle follows Yelp’s completion of an all-cash $40 million acquisition of  Nowait, a mobile app platform that allows restaurants to manage their waiting lists and lets diners get in line remotely.

With Turnstyle, Yelp hopes to continue to emphasize its value as a mobile discovery and marketing platform that connects local businesses and consumers on-the-go. That shift has been underwritten by accompanying refocus of its business model from national display advertising to performance-based, cost-per-action ads.

The addition of Turnstyle, which works with chains such as Subway and Burger King, could boost Yelp’s position as a performance-based marketing player that can meet the challenge posed by the likes of Google, Facebook, Foursquare, and other platform companies doubling down on online-to-offline marketing.

In addition to directly tying rewards/loyalty programs through its app to the local businesses it works with. The public wifi also presents a clear line to both in-store ads and geotargeted placements through that network.

A Retargeting Platform

Interestingly, Turnstyle also offers proximity-based retargeting programs to Yelp advertising partners. Consumers who sign up for Turnstyle’s guest wifi also offers the option to share their email addresses with businesses as part of the loyalty program.

Businesses can build highly targeted customer contact lists and access powerful analytics that provide insight into visit frequency and duration, says Devon Wright, Turnstyle’s co-founder and CEO. 

Combining this offline data with Yelp’s extensive online and mobile search data will deliver a comprehensive intent-based marketing resource to local businesses, Turnstyle says.

“Since our founding, Turnstyle has focused on building the best Wi-Fi marketing service to help businesses,” Wright says. “This is an exciting opportunity to expand and leverage Yelp’s resources and capabilities; together we’ll be able to help even more local businesses improve their customer retention, driving more repeat business.”

About The Author
David Kaplan David Kaplan @davidakaplan

A New York City-based journalist for over 20 years, David Kaplan is managing editor of GeoMarketing.com. A former editor and reporter at AdExchanger, paidContent, Adweek and MediaPost.