Search engines, online maps and consumer review sites like Yelp make it easy to locate a restaurant or other retailer you may want to visit, along with their hours of operations and content like dinner menus.
But easy doesn't always mean accurate. Retailers change locations, store hours and prices, and that information isn't immediately updated across the many platforms consumers use to find them.
Software-as-a-service provider Yext has a solution. The company's service aims to simplify what can be an arduous task, particularly for large chain retailers, of making sure the retailer's Website and search results reflect the most current information.
Yext helps companies automate the process of updating their location data via the online integration it has with more than a hundred consumer services, including Facebook, Yelp, Apple Maps, Bing and others.
On Feb. 16, Yext added Google to its PowerListings network of integration partners, greatly expanding the reach of its location management service.
"Our cause is location. We are a platform that lets companies around the world manage one of their biggest investments, their stores," Howard Lerman, co-founder and CEO of Yext, told eWEEK. "We provide companies with a system of record of all their locations including address, phone number and pictures of the store. We are the only company that does this."
If what Yext does sounds like a fairly cut-and-dried computing chore, it's not. Yext supports more than 600,000 store locations globally, including such big chains in the United States as Denny's restaurants and the Pep Boys auto parts stores. Yext has 490 employees at its New York City headquarters.
"What Yext does is one of those things that you assume is someone's job at a given retailer, and they're replacing that in a more automated, timely way," Bob O'Donnell, president of Technalysis Research, told eWEEK.
"It sounds like they're trying to put together an all-purpose service for retail environments to make sure their information is up-to-date online and mobile-friendly. That's valuable for a lot of organizations, particularly retail where having accurate physical presence information is critical."
Lerman said there was no payment involved for the integration with Google, which granted Yext access to its Google My Business API. He said Google is working with Yext because it sees value in making sure that the most current information appears in its search results and maps.
"Having accurate location information helps us deliver more relevant and useful results when people search," said Google Product Manager Aditya Tendulkar. "Our API makes it easier for businesses to manage their information at scale. And with the help of companies like Yext, we're eager to help more businesses take control of how their information shows up online."
Having an automated way to update store hours can be particularly useful when that information changes suddenly. For example, when Winter Storm Jonas hit the East Coast in January, the Sweetgreen restaurant chain used Yext to update its business listings across Google and the PowerListings Network to reflect weather-related store closings and reduced hours of operation.
Analyst O'Donnell points out that Yext may not be of great interest to every company with retail or storefront locations. It depends on how frequently or how much they value the ability to automate store location changes.
Lerman said real estate is often the third-biggest expense companies have after payroll and sales and marketing. So keeping that information current is important. In pitching Yext to new customers, Lerman said the conversation typically starts with the marketing department, but the CIO and store operations managers get involved as well. "The whole thing, what we do, is a platform that links to the front and backend and mobile apps," said Lerman.
He hinted the company is looking at expanding beyond retail and storefronts to office locations by automating the way enterprises keep office locations and personnel moves updated.