Acxiom Marketing Solutions Sold; What’s the Future of its SMB Listings?

Acxiom, one of the “big four” providers of SMB listings, along with InfoGroup, Localeze and Factual, is selling that SMB listings business along with the broader parent, Acxiom Marketing Services, to IPG, the ad agency/adtech giant. The $2.3 Billion transaction is slated to close at the end of 2018.

The remaining, smaller part of Acxiom will now assume the Live Ramp name, and focus on providing “identity data” and online and offline omni-channel services to brands. Its headquarters will move from Conway, Ark., to San Francisco, where CEO Scott Howe, a Microsoft vet, has been based since joining the company in 2011.

IPG’s interest in the data management services appears to be primarily about shoring up its omni-channel efforts for brands. It isn’t clear whether it will continue to support SMB listings, which has been a much smaller part of the business.

The SMB listings business itself has changed dramatically in recent years. The emergence of mobile, search and e-commerce has led to a new category of location management companies, such as Yext, Vendasta, Brandify and Momentfeed. These typically use listings as a foundation for comprehensive “find me” features like longitude/latitude, local promotions, pages and reviews.

Social-driven big data companies that create their own listings databases, such as Radius, have also dramatically changed SMB listings.

The listings business, however, remains an important source of validation for Google and other search engines. This side of the business is still valuable enough to be revisited by the likes of Infutor, a data services company that has reconstructed much of the original Localeze executive team.

In an analyst call announcing the deal, CEO Howe noted that analysts told him in 2011 that Acxiom faced “almost insurmountable challenges” in addressing the new generation of data. While Howe contended that the company has made tremendous progress, he said that IPG will be able to provide more scale and more resources.