Over the weekend CitySquares CEO Ben Saren sent me an article discussing the company’s acquisition of local shopping engine Yokel. This actually happened some time ago I believe. The company is now going public about it. CitySquares discusses it at a very high level on its blog:
We are excited to announce our recent acquisition of Yokel.com, an online retail directory that has made local shopping simpler than ever since 2005. With just a search term and a geographic location in mind, a visitor can find which local businesses sell a particular product or brand. This is an innovative idea and will be a great asset to CitySquares, because it not only connects neighborhood customers to the businesses in their area but also to the specific products sold in each store.
This site was founded by local search veterans Scott Randall and Don Zereski who both wanted to make local shopping information more accessible online. Together, these two masterminds created the clever software behind Yokel.com, which today has over 2 million retailers on the site.
I wrote about Yokel when it first launched in 2006 (and many times thereafter):
I spoke today to Scott Randall, CEO of Yokel. Yokel has been around for a little while but hasn’t formally launched yet. Yokel joins ShopLocal, CNET and Froogle in offering offline inventory/shopping information to online consumers. So far, there’s no e-commerce. Another competitor in the space, Local shopping aggregator Cairo.com, has shut down following its legal settlement with ShopLocal.
Yokel didn’t get the traction of Krillion or NearbyNow, neither of which primarily aimed to be consumer destinations, which Yokel was trying to be. However it will be interesting to see the integration of Yokel and CitySquares (or whether/how they’ll be integrated). It sounds like they will be.
Now that Google has returned to offering (or intending to offer) local inventory data, and now that shopping on smartphones is becoming fairly well established, this becomes a very interesting acquisition for CitySquares. While Superpages and Yellowpages.com have integrated Krillion (albeit in a nearly invisible way) none of the independent local sites has tried to do something with retailers and local products.
I’ve long discussed that this represents an opportunity to build out a more complete local offering — although not easy to execute. But Yokel provides CitySquares with a terrific start.
I just spoke to Ben Saren about the acquisition. He told me that while the companies had been talking for some time, the deal only closed recently.
Saren said that they would maintain and upgrade the Yokel site in the near term. He also said they were going to be exploring a variety of ways to integrate the Yokel content into CitySquares and use the crawling technology broadly to enhance the range of local content (beyond products) on the CitySquares site.
Saren and I discussed how this potentially opens the door to an entirely new opportunity (and model) for CitySquares around product search. In the next couple of months when Google debuts its local product search, the phenomenon will gain broader awareness. Yokel could well be in a position to benefit from that.
Saren said the local product search space feels like local search five years ago. Indeed, we’re at the beginning of something very interesting around product inventory information, with mobile as an integral part of all of it.