It is being reported that Apple quietly purchased Spotsetter this week. Spotsetter, a “social search engine” app co-founded by Google Maps engineer Stephen Tse and Johnny Lee pulls user data from social networks like Twitter, Instagram, Foursquare and Facebook to create a “personal index” of places, keywords, restaurants and activities that you and your friends might enjoy based on your social networking info. Many assume that the acquisition is a move by Apple Maps hoping to bridge the gap between its oft-lauded competitor Google Maps.
The question remains: Can Apple Maps offer a useful, valuable service that Google Maps can’t?
What is intriguing about this most-recent Apple purchase is their investment in a technology that further blurs the lines between social media “sharing” applications and “goal-oriented” search engine queries. Utilizing Big Data to generate personalized recommendations isn’t a revolutionary idea, but this investment in Spotsetter suggests that search results within Apple Maps are about to get even more personalized.
That’s good news for end users, but bad news for marketers that communicate with generalities instead of specifics; to the group instead of the individual. Consumers are increasingly demanding hyper-local, specified results — they do not want to know where stores are, they want to know where the one store they’re looking for is.
It’s a small distinction, but narrowing that search to that next degree is becoming big business.
Spotsetter is not the first company to focus more on individual desire and less on volume. Companies like Findery and Enquire encourage users to interact in a hyperlocal social space to learn about their communities and neighborhoods. This movement can even be traced as far back as 2011 when Google purchased the consumer-opined content of the Zagat Guides.
But do users really need another tool in their arsenal if they’re trying to find the nearest coffee shop or Chinese restaurant? Search/Social hybrid platforms like Yelp already have communities built around interrelated user reviews, and peer-based business recommendations. What is the consumer demand for additional opinions about that new shop on the corner, or that much-hyped bar down the street?
It’s time to take a step back. User opinions are great, but it’s essential to remember the core consumer “SoLoMo” search needs: business name, address, phone number, and hours of operation. These items remain the bedrock of an online business listing. Perhaps more-importantly, they are impervious to user opinion. If that core information is not readily available, a business cannot expect to attract customers, much less positive reviews.
This Apple purchase fits in well with our thoughts about the future of hyperlocal Where2GetIt has written about previously. It’s simply the most-recent revelation in a constantly shifting marketing and tech environment that we cover, and the momentum in this arena seems only to be accelerating.