What Snapchat’s Vurb Acquisition Says About Local Search

The Millennial-favorite app is thinking big when it comes to connecting online and offline.

Snapchat has acquired mobile search and local recommendation app Vurb for a reported $110+ million, but the size of the deal isn’t the big news: It’s that investment of this kind from an app valued at over $20 billion cements the importance of the role that local discovery plays in the consumer journey across the board.

Understanding why Snapchat would invest seriously in an app like Vurb isn’t complicated when viewed in light of recent statistics: Firstly, 76 percent of Google location searches result in a visit to a physical business with in a day — hugely important to businesses looking to spike in-store sales. Meanwhile, local “Near Me” searches have also skyrocketed in the past year, growing 146 percent.

Vurb is, of course, an app — not just a web search — but the evidence is there to prove that online discovery is how today’s consumers find physical places and products. Essentially, it’s the key to drawing foot traffic and cementing an in-store sales link.

Noted. But why should Snapchat, an app primarily known for letting users send face-swapped selfies to their friends, care about investing in driving consumers to local establishments? Easy: Even as Snapchat has reportedly passed Twitter for daily active users, it’s still fiddling with revenue streams. If the app gets a handle on monetizing its user base by convincing businesses that it can help them get discovered — and in turn, get new consumers to make purchases — it can likely solve a lot of its problems.

As The Next Web’s Bryan Clark put it, it happens that “what Vurb does best is exactly what Snapchat is lacking — discovery.”

Essentially, Vurb facilitates user searches that enable people to take action and visit a desired type of destination. Searching for movie listings leads to Fandango or a theater’s web page to buy tickets. This is what brings the online-to-offline link, closing the loop around consumer mobile behavior and actual real-world action — something physical businesses are very keen to build marketing strategies around.

As Emily Shannon, director of Digital at Mall of America, told GeoMarketing in March regarding its daily promotions for Flash Sales on behalf of its retailers: “We knew that Snapchat was really, really hot with Generation Z, the digital native audience. The question [everyone is asking] is, ‘How can we leverage what’s happening on Snapchat and build a more in-depth strategy around it?”

The acquisition of Vurb could well be the key to building out these strategies; all eyes are now on currently-mum Snapchat to see what role the acquisition will play.

About The Author
Lauryn Chamberlain Lauryn Chamberlain @laurynchamberla

Lauryn Chamberlain is the Associate Editor of A New York City based journalist, she specializes in stories related to retail, dining, hospitality, and travel.