Yelp buys Turnstyle to expand marketing services for SMBs

Turnstyle's core product is essentially a digital marketing service that allows businesses to connect with their customers through a free Wi-Fi network.

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Turnstyle also offers analytics tools that provide insights into customer behavior, such as visit frequency and duration.

Reviews website Yelp said Tuesday that it has acquired Toronto-based Wi-Fi marketing analytics firm Turnstyle Analytics for approximately $20 million in cash.

Turnstyle's core product is essentially a digital marketing service that allows businesses to connect with their customers through a free Wi-Fi network. Customers must provide their email address in order to tap into the network, and in turn, businesses get to keep those addresses to build out their customer contact lists. Turnstyle also offers analytics tools that provide insights into customer behavior, such as visit frequency and duration.

Yelp says Turnstyle currently supports nearly 3,500 business locations primarily across North America. As part of Yelp, Turnstyle's technology will be reinforced with Yelp's search data to deliver "a comprehensive intent-based marketing resource available for local businesses across the US and Canada," said Yelp's VP of corporate development, Chad Richard, in a blog post.

The combination of Yelp and Turnstyle makes a lot of sense. First, the service allows SMBs to connect with their offline customers, something that's become increasingly important in today's bricks-and-clicks retail environment. What's more, Wi-Fi has been shown to be a factor in driving foot traffic in brick-and-mortar stores to shops.

Yelp cited a survey by Small Biz Trends that found that 62 percent of customers admit to spending more time in store that provide free Wi-Fi, and that 50 percent of those customers tend to spend more money on products or services as a result.

As for what the deal means for Turnstyle, it sounds as though the company will continue to service its clients for the time being, and the entire Turnstyle team is expected to join Yelp.

"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 Jeremy Stoppelman, Yelp co-founder and chief executive officer, in a statement.

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