While a number of app developers have been able to achieve success serving specific niches, Poynt’s local search app has managed to become successful across device platforms and geographies. It passed the 8.5 million unique user mark at the end of June 2011, with its customer base spread across North America, Western Europe and Australia.

Reflecting the shifting balance of smartphone platforms, of the 700,000-plus new users added in June 2011, more than 500,000 were Android users. Existing preloads contributed to more than 300,000 of these Android gains.

“While a pre-load agreement takes a tremendous amount of effort to secure and negotiate, it is the single-most effective way to reach a mass audience. We also find that the ease of discovery returns a much higher user conversion rate,” Andrew Osis (pictured), Poynt’s CEO, told Mobile Apps Briefing.

Importantly, the amount of user engagement has also increased, with the average number of user queries increasing to 30 from 21 over the twelve month period.

“Listening to our users has resulted in most of the verticals and features of the app today, which in turn not only drives greater usage, but builds a trusting relationship with our users. We believe in them, they believe in us,” Osis noted.

The majority of Poynt users are based in North America, which is where the company began its operations. According to Osis, 70 percent are in the US, 10 percent in Canada, 10 percent in the UK, and the remaining 10 percent split across its other markets – Germany, France, Italy, Spain and Australia.

Getting results from local advertising
Osis said that Poynt has “several case studies that demonstrate above industry standard click-through rates,” on average ten times greater than the norm. It also has a strong post click-through user engagement of about 17 percent, for example from users clicking to call a business or looking for mapping directions after a search.

“The key element here is that when users are searching in Poynt, they are in the ‘purchase funnel,’ and that is the optimal time for a brand/advertiser to connect with a user. We enable that with targeted advertising based on knowledge of the what, when and where of any search.”

According to Osis, business listing searches are the most popular, and these searches can be performed by both business name and keyword, across all “typical ‘yellow page’ categories.” This is followed (in order) by restaurant and cinema searches.

Deep platform integration
According to Osis, part of Poynt’s strategy is to create apps that integrate deeply with a device’s native apps, rather than simply porting software which sits “on top” of the platform. This comes at a price – the process of developing and updating becomes more intensive, requiring specific resources for each platform or programming language.

“This can be challenging and a barrier to entry for new app developers or young companies who may not have the resources to build cross platform. Having taken this step, we know that it is the best route to a satisfying user experience and a successful business model.”

The decision to offer this level of integration means that as yet the company has not found HTML5 too much of a draw – although Osis did acknowledge some potential opportunities. “HTML5 does not allow for deep device integration, but as developers search for some consistency in standards the HTML5 language offers an advantage.”

“As we see more and more convergence of content on different devices, we recognise the value of using HTML5 in our development roadmap. We have integrated Facebook and Twitter into the Poynt app and want our users to leverage how they share to drive new users. In other words, that content needs to be available for a user’s network to see, regardless of device. HTML5 will support this.”

Development plans
Poynt’s roadmap for the current year is “feature parity across all markets.” This includes introducing the events channel in Germany and petrol pricing in the UK, for example.

The company is also planning to continue enhancing the app in two ways: through the introduction of additional content, such as menu ordering and the ability to purchase movie tickets in more markets; and through the adoption of new device features, such as the introduction of augmented reality on Nokia devices and integration with BBM for BlackBerry devices.

Supporting this, Poynt intends to move into “even more hyper-local hyper-relevant advertising and offers to users based on location, time of day and search criteria,” across all markets.

Patent play
With patents something of an industry hot-topic at the moment, Poynt has “a clear strategy to protect and monetise our intellectual property,” Osis said, noting that the company “expects this to be a significant revenue stream in the future.”

Earlier this year, the company announced a deal with licensing specialist Gladios IP, a subsidiary of WiLAN, which has “successfully rolled out IP defence strategies for more than 250 companies, resulting in licences worth hundreds of millions of dollars.”

Poynt has a handful of patents in its portfolio, and in addition to serving as a licensing opportunity, the company said that these provide a “barrier to entry for competitors of the company’s location-based search model.” Among its portfolio is a patent on the delivery of location-based, contextual and relevant data, sorted by proximity of user. It also has a patent related to the delivery of mobile coupons and offers to customers.