After interviewing executives from a range of advertising agencies, platforms and experts including R/GA, Sears, Twitter, Microsoft, YP, Groupon, Mashable and the IAB , we found that there is still a lot of confusion around what “local” actually means. Overall, the feeling is that the local space isn’t clearly distinguishable from advertising as a whole, but there is a strong conviction that it could and should be.
This is where we believe “Last Mile” can bring some clarity. In my blog post on Street Fight, I define the Last Mile Advertising space and explain the three pillars that make up this space: Seek, Discover and Consider.
A few weeks ago, Groupon launched Deal Builder which is a new self-serve tool that allows business owners to create deals and offers that become a part of Groupon’s daily offering. Groupon is hoping the tool will help broaden the types of businesses using the platform, such as those not located in major urban areas outside of Groupon’s normal sales reach.
Offers that are created through Deal Builder tend to have a lower audience, as they aren’t sent out in one of Groupon’s main e-mail blasts or notifications. While at first blush that might seem like a drawback for Deal Builder, local merchants in the past have been unprepared for the high volume of traffic that Groupon e-mails can create.
Deal Builder may also help SMBs improve their ability to connect with consumers on mobile devices. Mobile Commerce Daily recently highlighted an SMB’s offer on Deal Builder that resulted in half of the redemptions coming from mobile devices.
Despite Social Media Examiner’s study released last year that found 80% of marketers don’t plan on using a daily deal site, Deal Builder opens the door for more SMBs to experiment with daily deals at their own pace. The self-serve model takes away the hand-holding that was needed to create deals, takes away any sales pressure, and offers customized solutions selected by the SMB itself.
For Groupon, the tool improves its ability to house more deals and generate more locally focused content. Similar to all the recent news related to Yahoo’s local search capabilities, Deal Builder further solidifies Groupon’s standing as a legitimate local marketing solution for SMBs.
“With the launch of Deal Builder, we now have a customizable solution for the thousands of merchants that contact us directly every month wanting to run a deal,” said Dan Roarty, vice president of product development at Groupon.
Since SMBs can’t compete with the marketing budgets of national brands, it helps to have solutions like Deal Builder that get them in the mobile ad and search space without devoting a lot of resources. In addition, by having more control over the direction of deals, SMBs can use their local knowledge to develop customized and relevant offers. It will be interesting to see if Deal Builder does help Groupon break into and catch on with businesses in smaller markets.
I came across this op-ed in Ad Age the other day and thought it highlighted an interesting point regarding the need for our industry to stop talking about mobile as a “new” piece of the local ad equation. Water Cooler Group president, Anthony Young, accurately highlights that this year, smart phone penetration in the United States will hit 80% and tablets will overtake sales of PCs. Mobile hasn’t just arrived, it is well-established and booming.
Young writes that we need to take our marketing efforts from simply using mobile as a venue to push ads to integrating “mobility” solutions into all aspects of marketing. Pushing an ad on a mobile device is far different than creating a relevant experience to a consumer whose time is valuable. Consumers continue to be on-the-go and expect to be connected at all times, so as marketers, we should create useful and meaningful experiences that allow them to connect to brands easily and quickly.
Promoting our industry among policymakers in 2014 started with two conferences in New England in January. With participation by hibü at both, we had an exhibit booth at the Massachusetts Municipal Association (MMA) conference in Boston, MA. A week later, we were at the Rhode Island League of Cities & Towns’ in Warwick, RI. When we share details of YellowPagesOptOut.com, our environmental record, and how we boost local economies, we make important gains with local lawmakers whom otherwise may support bills restricting our industry. In both Massachusetts and Rhode Island – both states where our industry has faced legislative hurdles – we were pleased to be greeted warmly and feel that we made a good impact with local leaders.
LSA Public Policy Manager Gene Wilk and hibü Environmental Relations Manager Matt Krug at the Rhode Island League of Cities & Towns conference.
Recently, YP announced the re-launch of the company’s website, YP.com. The site has been redesigned to better connect consumers and local businesses through a more user-centric design, improved navigation and a cleaner, more functional format.
“As the leader in local search and advertising, our new website reflects our proven commitment to meeting the evolving needs of our users and advertisers,” said David Krantz, CEO of YP. “The robust set of new features now offered in our online and mobile properties offer users more ways to discover, share and connect with local businesses that can help them get things done.”
The website’s new ‘My Book’ feature enables YP.com visitors to create and manage their own collections of local merchants. With the feature, users can save their favorite businesses and share them with other users.
In addition to ‘My Book,’ YP has also rolled out new, more personalized features including ‘You Might Like,’ ‘Coupons Nearby’ and ‘Popular Articles & Interviews” to help users discover new options. The presentation of search results and business information has also been updated.
Krantz added, “Product developments, resulting in new features like My Book, are the cornerstones of our success and have positioned us as the go-to partner for both consumers and advertisers. We will continue to build on these offerings and our leading market position by investing in proprietary technologies that deliver high-quality search experiences and ultimately create meaningful connections between merchants and consumers.”
YP is definitely keeping up with trends of customization and discovery based search with these new features. I look forward to testing out the new site the next time I’m on the hunt!
For the past 16 years, November 15th has marked a key day on the calendar – America Recycles Day. An initiative of Keep America Beautiful, the day is a great reminder about the importance of incorporating recycling more fully into our daily lives.
Here at the Local Search Association, we’re encouraging local businesses and consumers to celebrate America Recycles Day by recycling their outdated print phone directories through curbside recycling and other local recycling initiatives in their communities.
We are looking to communities and individuals to help improve our success rate with recycling outdated print directories. In its most recent Municipal Solid Waste Facts and Figures report (2011), the EPA reported that the paper category including newspapers, directories and other mechanical papers maintains a high recycling rate of 72.5%, but we think we can continue to do better.
Additionally, we are encouraging consumers who prefer online and mobile tools, rather than print directories, to find local information to visit www.YellowPagesOptOut.com to manage print directory delivery to their homes and businesses. The site, which is funded by publishers and endorsed by Keep America Beautiful, provides a free, simple and convenient way for consumers to select which directories they want to receive, or stop directory delivery entirely.
Yelp users have posted an average of 10,000 mobile reviews a day since August, accounting for a quarter of all new reviews, according to Yelp CEO Jeremy Stoppelman. The company expects this number and proportion to increase, especially since the ability to write reviews from mobile was just introduced for Android devices.
During the company’s third-quarter conference call, Stoppelman also noted that the quality of reviews from mobile users was similar to those posted from desktop users. He noted that if a mobile review is deemed too short, it is converted to a tip, or shorter blurb, about a business. Stoppelman described the mobile review capability as a “net positive” and that “high quality content should lead to more traffic and more distribution.”
Yelp’s new ordering service is also showing promise. The company indicated that there are plans to extend to retail categories, allowing consumers to book things like spa services, home repair appointments and dental visits. The move represents the next step in integrating local review sites with local e-commerce tools – sites like Seamless, OpenTable, ZocDoc and MyTime have had explosive success in the online ordering and appointment booking space.
It looks like Yelp is making strong moves to diversify the value it offers both local businesses and customers. If you haven’t already, take a look at Neg Norton’s recent Search Engine Land column, in which he discusses the importance of local businesses leveraging new opportunities like mobile ordering to convert customers.
Last week, Google introduced Maps Engine Pro, a tool that helps businesses visualize their individual data on the Google Maps platform. The tool allows small businesses to use location tools provided by Google to create both internal- and external-facing maps.
The Google Maps Engine Pro tool uses imported data, including addresses, names, office locations and sales territories to visualize a business on the map. Maps Engine Pro will allow businesses to optimize the locations of people and company assets, engage users and build apps using all of Google’s layers. Maps Engine Pro allows SMBs and individual employees to create their own stylized maps, without specialized training or developer resources.
This new variation is an adapted version of Google Maps Engine, which is a more advanced map styling tool offering a full spectrum of maps creation. The Pro tool has been simplified for business professionals.
“By providing better ways to easily integrate maps into your organization’s operations, businesses now have the ability to use powerful mapping technologies that were once only available to mapping experts,” according to Brian McClendon, VP of Google Maps.
Pure Fix Cycles, a distributor of custom-made fixed-gear bicycles, is using Maps Engine Pro to identify sales opportunities across the company’s target markets, hoping to expand its business. The company’s founder, Jordan Schau, is finding the new tool useful from a customer service standpoint:
“Looking at a spreadsheet of 100 accounts on the East Coast, I would have no idea where any of them are. I uploaded that spreadsheet [to Maps Engine Pro] and I can say ‘Customer service team, check out this map. When a customer calls, [we can] send them to a store that have a lot of inventory’ or send them to stores that order from us often.’”
Being able to visualize and easily identify location patterns is incredibly important for businesses looking to properly delegate their local marketing spend. Local businesses looking to grow their customer base would be wise to look into the tool to map out customer data. For instance, a business could input data from its rewards program to see which parts of town customers are coming from to help guide where in the city to focus marketing dollars. Additionally, small businesses could map purchases to determine product-buying patterns in their locale, providing insights on which products to market more heavily in different areas.
It’s exciting to see what new mapping technology is bringing about not just for consumers looking to find their way, but for small businesses looking to harness insights to drive business goals forward.
Yellow Media announced on Monday the appointment of Julien Billot as its new President and CEO. Yellow Media is the leading media and marketing solutions company in Canada and operates properties and publications including Yellow Pages print directories, YellowPages.ca, Canada411.ca and RedFlagDeals.com.
The company’s board of directors’ key focus was to “identify a senior leader with experience in executing and delivering digital transformations, a deep understanding of the media industry as well as a keen knowledge of the challenges facing traditional local search enterprises.”
Billot brings more than 20 years of leadership experience within the global media industry. He most recently served as executive vice president and head of the media group at Solocoal (formerly PagesJaunes), France’s largest local search firm, which has had a remarkably successful transition to digital over the past few years. Prior to Solocal, Billot was CEO of Lagardère Active’s digital and new media group.
Earlier this year, Yellow Media restructured to focus on digital products and shift its existing print customers to online advertising packages. The company is hoping Billot will aid them in this transformation. At Solocal, Billot grew digital revenue share from 35% to 58%, and increased the profitability margins of the company’s digital offerings. Prior to that, he grew Lagardère’s digital and new business group’s global digital business, multiplying revenues six times in three years.
Billot’s experience with Solocal will be an asset as Yellow Media looks to make the same journey in Canada. I look forward to seeing Billot’s efforts realize positive change for our industry on this side of the Atlantic!
Fake online reviews and other questions about review authenticity have been a hot topic of discussion recently. In response, TripAdvisor and American Express have partnered on an interesting initiative to bring greater credibility to the online review process and provide AmEx card members with access to promotions and other special offers.
The new partnership will allow AmEx card members to see reviews from other card members and leave reviews of their own. AmEx card members will be able to connect their cards with their personal TripAdvisor profiles, designating them as an “AmEx Traveler.” All reviews left by card members will be marked as an “Amex Card Member Review,” confirming that the reviewers used their cards to make purchases at those locations.
“Card members trust other card members’ recommedations,” said Leslie Berland, AmEx’s senior vice president for digital partnerships and development. “Their views, their insight, what they’re doing, carries a weight and relevance.”
The partnership also provides exclusive hotspot lists, including lists of hotels and restaurants trending with other AmEx members around the world, as well as special discounts, offers and savings, which can be synced directly with users’ AmEx cards.
The partnership is a win for TripAdvisor and Amex, as well as Amex businesses and card members. By verifying that reviews are left by those who made purchases, the companies are helping to restore authenticity and trust to the review process. AmEx users also consider themselves part of a select group, so showcasing reviews left by AmEx members adds an additional sense of credibility for other AmEx members viewing them. And by incorporating AmEx branding and showcasing special promotions throughout the site, the company is making it easier for TripAdvisor users to use their AmEx card at the point of purchase with businesses that accept the card.
I think this partnership serves as a great example for other companies in the online review space of how to tackle this growing issue of online review authenticity, while providing additional integration benefits for consumers along the way. It will be interesting to see what other similar ideas come forward from TripAdvisor and its competitiors.