Category Archives: Shopping

Kilponen: SMB Retailers Need to Focus on Foot Traffic Drivers

What should SMB retailers do to level the playing field with larger regional and national retailers? There are no easy answers, but they should really focus on mobile and geo location targeting, says Wanderful Media COO Doug Kilponen. Search has major limitations for them.

“In the old days, you could create free traffic from Google and the like. But SEO is dead for small retailers,” says Kilponen, previously CMO at Merchant Circle. “It’s been taken up by the Amazons and Google of the world. If you do a search term on products, it is a black hole. You can rarely find a way out.”

Mobile, however, represents “new opportunity “ for SMBs — albeit one that is misunderstood. “For small retailers, it is still about foot traffic,” says Kilponen. That means they should tap into location based services; engage local friends via social media; post products in certain categories; and target uses via promotions. Mobile SMB platforms such as Wanderful’s Find&Save Storefront provides “a stronger ROI than what we’ve seen in search,” he adds.

Kilponen is speaking on SMB retail at Leading in Local: SMB Digital Marketing Sept. 22-24 in New Orleans. You can register here.

Wanderful Media Targets SMB Retailers With ‘Find&Save Storefront’

When it comes to search, promotion, customer engagement and just getting found, the challenge for smaller retailers is to level the playing field with larger players (i.e. Macy’s, Kohl’s, Sears). That’s the idea behind Wanderful Media‘s new Find&Save Storefront, an App that allows SMB retailers to promote sales goods, seasonal collections and other items. Several hundred retailers have downloaded the App, which is in soft launch in several test markets. A major launch is planned for October.

The Storefront is an extension of Wanderful Media’s current mission with its Find&Save brand, which currently focuses on large retailer and brand sales “circular” information, which are distributed to about 500 newspaper sites around the U.S. on FindnSave.com and apps for iOS and Android devices.

The new effort marks the second time that Wanderful has tried to serve SMB retailers. Earlier iterations of Find&Save included ads from SMB stores. These were removed from the site’s relaunch in April 2013, however, because they were not really on par, aesthetically, with the larger retailer ads.

The Storefront App, which we found easy to use, enables SMBs to automatically claim locations by their phone number. Once their site and location have been claimed, they can tie geo-sensitive promotional offers or other verbiage to pictures of items they can take with a smart phone. SMB retailers can create as many offers or sales events as they want.

Find&Save Storefront is free to download and use, except for an “Evergreen credit” feature, which enables retailers to promote products beyond the 30 day free period for 99 cents each. Other premium products will also likely be introduced. Features that are being used for Storefront may also be borrowed for other Wanderful apps, such as its sophisticated dashboards for the business and its local peers.

VP of Product Grace Chan told us that Wanderful is poised to serve consumers and three distinct customer groups: “national retailers,” “regional retailers” and local “SMB retailers.” The SMB portion is especially relevant to the company because it has local sales forces set to hit the streets via its local newspaper affiliates.

At the same time, however, Chan notes that SMB needs “may not be exactly the same” as those of regional and national retailers and brands. Local business owners, for instance, pay less attention to brand exposure. They mostly want to drive traffic to the store. They may be less interested in issuing coupons or discounts on a constant basis.

“These merchants like to make ‘offers’ to drive store traffic, not coupons,” said Chan. Or they might simply use the site to introduce a new collection of clothes, or focus on clearance goods. “‘Coupons’ make them think they are leaving money on the table,” she says.

Placing items on the App also takes some planning on the part of SMB retailers. It takes just eight seconds to build an offer, says Chan, but many SMBs aren’t ready to sit down and do that. That’s an area that requires more attention from SMBs, she says.

Wanderful Media COO Doug Kilponen is a featured speaker at BIA/Kelsey’s SMB Digital Marketing conference Sept. 22-24 in New Orleans. You may register here.

A Look at Facebook’s ‘Buy Button’ for SMBs

Facebook hasn’t really been a player in ecommerce –Facebook Credits, its games-oriented initiative, was shut down in 2012 after three years of experimentation with virtual currencies. But it continues to test the waters — which is not surprising, given its volume and huge edge in social media and native advertising.

Last year, Facebook began to allow consumers to add credit card information to profiles in order to enable ecommerce transactions. Now, Facebook says it is testing a “Buy Button” with “some” SMBs.

During the test, consumers are providing Facebook with credit/debit card info for PayPal-like purchases on a one-time-only basis. Neither the SMB or Facebook ever get to see the info – all payments are being handled by a third party processor. Consumers could then opt to allow Facebook to make the credit/debit card info part of their permanent profile, using the cards for convenience.

If Facebook expands the effort – which Reuters reports is currently free for merchants — the implications could be significant. For starters, Facebook’s enhancement of its anonymous consumer profile would put Facebook on a collision with Amazon and its one-click purchase system. By focusing on the under-served SMB market for ecommerce – and likely offering a blend of virtual and physical goods — Facebook would also be breaking new ground.

Facebook’s Joseph Devoy is discussing a wide range of SMB initiatives at Leading in Local: SMB Digital Marketing Sept. 22-24. You can register here.

Is Amazon Testing a Local Marketplace?

Amazon has been reported to be prepping a local services marketplace test in one market. If the article is accurate, this effort won’t necessarily be adopted into a nationwide product – Amazon frequently tests product concepts — but should be watched with interest.

Amazon Marketplace – or whatever its final branding – would complement existing Amazon services in local, including Amazon Local, a Groupon-like deals entity now in dozens of markets; and Amazon Fresh, which is providing grocery delivery service in Seattle, San Francisco and southern California. (Amazon also touches the local marketplace via Amazon Web Services and Amazon Payments, both of which provide digital infrastructure support for local merchants.)

If launched, Amazon Marketplace would fit into the company’s mission of making it easier for consumers to make informed decisions on purchases and to buy goods and services. It would also help source deals at the local level for Amazon Local. Amazon may be frustrated at the difficulty of sourcing deals through third parties, and the expense of a local sales force, which is mostly used to sell to local retailers. As described, Marketplace would be an automated product.

It could also fit into Amazon’s growing advertising business, which has made a big play via Kindle Offers and much more importantly, Product Listing Ad tiles at the top of search pages – monetizing photo search for the first time. Amazon made $600 million from advertising in 2013, but hasn’t yet gone into local advertising, which represents a new frontier.

According to the Reuters article, the initial effort for Amazon Marketplaces would focus on hiring local services, rather than goods. Yelp and Angie’s List are the biggest players in the space, but may have less than 10 percent of the overall market.

Amazon may seek to implement the infrastructure for Marketplaces from Pro.com, a new, 30 person service that includes 15 ex-Amazon employees. Pro.com has raised $3.5 million, including funds from Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. The service matches contractors with consumers and providing job estimates. But Bezos has never sold his personal investments to Amazon (unlike Oracle’s Larry Ellison and AOL’s Tim Armstrong). It seems especially unlikely because Bezos is only a minority investor in the company.

In any case, Amazon’s launch of a services marketplace would be somewhat ironic. In April, the Bezos-owned Washington Post discontinued a service which is almost exactly like what has been described for Amazon Marketplace – Service Alley. (The greatest irony of this is that Service Alley was built – pre-Bezos — on top of TeachStreet, a start up that Amazon purchased in an acqui-hire, and then discontinued).

IAB Leadership Meeting: WalMart Global Commerce CEO Neil Ashe

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Wal-Mart Global eCommerce CEO Neil Ashe told 1000+ digital marketing pros at the IAB’s Annual Leadership Meeting in Palm Desert that their responsibility is to fully integrate their efforts throughout the organization.

Ashe, who formerly ran CBS Interactive, said top company execs have got to get away from the notion that the CIO is the only one who matters because “he has the ear of the CEO. That’s bunk,” he said. “You need everyone.”

“The org chart hasn’t changed all that much,” added Ashe. “But people are really changing. It is about inspiring change among key influentials in the organization.”

Ashe noted that Walmart.com has been set up as a separate organization, based in San Bruno, CA. But it has a major impact on the rest of WalMart, and works hard to blend its activities with WalMart.

Ultimately, a company needs to be judged on “its willingness to change, and its ability to invent,” said Ashe. “We need to deliver consistency across our units and bring together marketing, merchandising and technology in ways they’ve never been before.”

The top priority, Ashe added, is to coordinate the needs of the customer. “It is no longer up to the organization to do this,” said Ashe. “It happens at the point of the customers. It happens not where we choose, but where they choose. First and foremost, it is about how to deliver a better shopping experience for customers.”

It is also time to get over the novelty of Big Data concepts, and start thinking about how to actually apply data in meaningful ways. “Six-to-nine months ago, we all sat down and said ‘we’re sick’ of talking” about Big Data. We need to turn Big Data from a noun to a verb, and make it actionable,” said Ashe.

“We need it to help us help customers to find one more item; for merchants to sell one more item; to help our fulfillment centers do their job,” Ashe added. “That’s when data becomes actionable.”

Noting that WalMart was a pioneer in sharing its data with suppliers as far back as 1992, Ashe said that the company’s new efforts with data is “manifesting itself on site and in our stores; and manifesting in merchants in how they operate on our site and our store; and with operators, from scheduling to inventory outreach.

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Local’s New Year: Some Thoughts and Predictions

Over the years, we’ve seen some major paradigm shifts in the transition of local marketing to digital. In 2003, it was the rise of Google search as applied to small business –to this day, the biggest thing that ever happened to local. In 2007, the paradigm shift was the rise of Groupon and prepaid deals as a way to drive customer acquisition. This opened the door for all kinds of non-advertising marketing, from Facebook and Twitter to Card Linked Offers.

Right now, mobile is THE paradigm shift – both as a media channel, and as a geolocation device (Mobile hasn’t been a factor yet as an ewallet. But that is sure to come, with a whole new set of implications.)

Nothing happens in 12 month cycles, but this is what I see happening in 2014:

Hyperlocal Fails to Win Destination Status, Gets a Better Life as Feature
Hyperlocal seems so compelling; contextual content that can draw users who can be microtargeted on a block by block basis. But on a super hyper local basis, it hasn’t scaled as a business model or as a compelling destination site. AOL’s Patch is reported to be winding up as an independent entity, and National Local hybrids such as Examiner.com haven’t made an impact either. The one remaining super hyperlocal site is Next Door Networks, which has raised a $100 Million war chest. The site is based on user generated content and local cells of 30+ users. It is a much cheaper model than Patch’s local staff. But will it win sustained participation from users? My bet is that it won’t. But does that mean that hyperlocal is dead? In fact, hyperlocal is everywhere – in reviews, posts, articles, maps and enhanced listings. Its use is sure to grow.

The Sharing Economy Spawns Multiple Vertical Sites
One of the big local breakthroughs has been the development of shared listing sites for apartments (Airbnb), vacation rentals (BRBO) and rides (Uber). In 2014, we expect to see shared listings become more ubiquitous, with multiple entries per verticals, and the addition of many more verticals. We also expect to see an entire ecosystem grow around these sites. As AirBnB’s Joe Zadeh noted at Interactive Local Media in San Francisco, solutions are being added based on need. For instance, Airbnb has developed a freelance photographer program because hosts need good pictures of their apartments.

Social’s Impact In Local Is Too Fragmented, But Dedicated Word of Mouth Sites Make a Dent
Social leaders like Facebook and Google+ have tremendous volume at the local level. Facebook, alone, has over one million SMB advertisers. But its local usage is so fragmented that local can’t be a real focus at the vertical level. Review-based sites such as Yelp and Angie’s List get closer to the mark, and have broadened their reach beyond restaurants and service professionals, respectively. But they leave plenty of room for smaller Word of Mouth sites that can specialize in certain sectors (i.e. Plumbers) and really dig in. Look for some of the industry’s most innovative leaders try to break through with new models in 2014, including Justin Sanger with SupportLocal; Gib Olander with Local Viewpoints; and Matthew Berk with Lucky Oyster.

‘Big Data’ and Non-Advertising Marketing Boost Local Leads
The ability to base marketing on user engagement and behavior is a fantastic opportunity. Big data, specifically, mixes and matches various data bases to determine the likelihood of engagement. It has been successfully applied to support advertising campaigns. But can users be targeted as a substitute for advertising budgets? And looking forward, can transaction activity, store inventories and user location be wedded to search behavior as part of e big data? This is a greenfield opportunity in all respects. What we are looking for is the transformation of retail email and social lists to leads and promotions. Look for big data players such as Radius Intelligence, Retailigence, xAd, Urban Mapping and LocalBlox to showcase new opportunities in leads and geotargeting.

The Hunger for ‘Attribution’ Drives Big Data and Transaction Marketing
One of the biggest problems for local marketers is proving attribution – especially as users effortlessly move from a banquet of “spreadable media” – everything from articles to email to social media posts to YouTube. It is another reason we are keen on transactional media and loyalty media – the receipts say it all. Look for the gatekeepers of transaction media and loyalty marketing–everyone from Living Social to First Data, Bank of America, MasterCard, Amex , Google Wallet, PayPal and Square – to edge their way into consumer marketing.

Online Shopping Goes Local via Delivery
Interactive Local Media has largely been defined by tech factors, such as geofencing . But the growing use of online by commerce giants such as WalMart, The Home Depot, Amazon and eBay; their development of regional warehouses and delivery networks; and use of Facebook Connect-like one stop shopping suggests a new front in the war for local commerce. The imposition of local sales taxes also suggests a level playing field with local businesses. eBay’s purchase in 2013 of the Shutl courier service, and its expansion to multiple markets, really showed where this might lead.

Happy New Year everyone, and thanks for reading and being part of the local community.

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LIL ILM: eBay’s Jody Ford on ‘The New Commerce Battlefield’

Local is front and center in the next phase of ecommerce opening up, said eBAY VP of Marketplaces Jody Ford during a keynote address Dec. 110 at Leading in Local: Interactive Local Media in San Francisco. Ford said the past several years have been about online service, inventory and convenience and have necessarily favored online sites such as Amazon. But a new era of commerce that is consumer driven and technology enabled will blur the lines between online and offline.

“That is local,” said Ford. “There will be more retail change in the next three years than in the past twenty years.” And it will necessarily favor “platform” companies such as eBay, which Ford boasts has “the largest group of closed loop transactions in the world served by eBay, eBay Enterprises and PayPal.

“My job is to remove friction from connecting buyers and sellers,” he said. In fact, eBay “sits in the middle between utility sites such as Amazon and Walmart, and social shopping sites such as Etsy, Pinterest and Fab, he said.

The company’s next steps include such efforts as same day, scheduled delivery via eBay Now, which is supported by eBay’s recent acquisition of the Shutl courier service. eBay Now has been rolled out in the Bay Area. Chicago and parts of New York City. Dallas and London are next.