Category Archives: Local Search

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).

DataSphere: Opportunity in Mobile Advertising for SMBs

The times are a changin’ when it comes to SMB customer acquisition. Non-traditional options – including the use of social media, mobile targeting and promotional calls to action – provide opportunities for SMBs looking to take advantage of shifts in consumer behavior.

Few companies have been as energetic in capturing this shift as much as Seattle-based DataSphere, which has quietly amassed 20,000 SMB accounts, making it one of the largest SMB marketing platforms.

Changing with the times, DataSphere is moving its focus away from buying ad space on local Websites. Instead, it has developed a set of services based on mobile ad networks, which can target customers on a geotargeted and just-in-time basis.

The company is also focusing on LocalSaver.com, a coupon portal; and the LocalSaver Network, a distribution network. LocalSaver goes beyond coupons to provide SMBs with enhanced features such as landing pages, updated listings designed to maximize consumer engagement and video. (DataSphere has built videos for 90 percent of its customers.)

The rise in mobile usage, in particular, has led to a major boost in SMBs’ use of geotargeting – and in the availability of geotargeted ad exchange inventory. Seventy percent of LocalSaver traffic is now lat/long enabled, says SVP Gary Cowan.

This is an edited excerpt of a new BIA/Kelsey client brief, “DataSphere: Leveraging Mobile Advertising and Changing Course with 20,000 SMBs.”

YP’s David Lebow at BIA/Kelsey: No More National Local Wall

The wall between national and local marketing is falling with tech-empowered consumers able to find their information wherever they want it, noted YP EVP David Lebow during a keynote at Leading in Local: The National Impact in Atlanta. “Traditional media companies are the only ones keeping up that wall.”

YP is very much a company in transition, like Gannett, Hearst and others, noted Lebow, a longtime media and online leader with recent stints at AOL and Internet Broadcasting. Like the others, YP’s real and clichéd task is “to grow the growing side of the business in excess of the declining side of the business. It never changes.”

“The question is: how can we be the Google of local search?” asks Lebow. “In order to do that, we need to innovate at the pace of the market.”

There is no question that YP should be pursuing local search. “We don’t want to be in directory. One is a $2.7 billion segment growing at 3 percent, while the other is a $29.8 billion segment growing at 7 percent,” said Lebow. But it is critical to attack the market in a broad way. YP shouldn’t be a content play within a vertical, like a Zillow or a WebMD, he said.

A core focus of the local search effort needs to be in SMB presence management. “Businesses really need to be found,” Lebow said. And that’s where the convergence of national local comes in. “The SMB says it needs leads and loyalty. National says it needs measurement, analytics and reporting. The needs of national and local businesses are coming into one.”

Analytics Take Center Stage: Where2GetIt Acquires Brandify

Analytics are moving center stage for many “platform” companies previously anchored in features such as maps, search, deals, store location, directions, listing updates and enhancements.

The trend – a real one — was reinforced today by Where2GetIt’s announcement that it has acquired Brandify, the Washington D.C. area based provider of analytics for 26,000 local businesses.

Brandify provides feedback on digital marketing efforts based on 200 + variables, including reputation, local SEO performance, social engagement, competitor benchmarking, reviews and comments, business listing analysis, and locator traffic. Where 2 Get It envisions Brandify “bridging the gap between its online and offline features” with “real time local insights.”

Where2GetIt CEO Manish Patel, in a discussion with BIA/Kelsey, said that many of the company’s multi location customers — ranging from Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream Shops to Hunter Douglas shades — have been asking for a more comprehensive solution.

“They are faced with knitting together a patchwork of point products and services to protect their brand, improve visibility, local listing management, and local monitoring,” said Patel. Brandify “scores” their effectiveness in key areas, and makes it easier for them to determine how effective they’ve been.

While Brandify will continue to be developed as a standalone service for small and medium businesses, it will also be integrated into Where2GetIt’s platform for national brands and multi-location services, Patel added.

Where2GetIt CEO Manish Patel is presenting a DEMO today at BIA/Kelsey’s Leading in Local: The National Impact in Atlanta

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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ReachLocal Moves Away From Consumer-Facing ‘ClubLocal’

ReachLocal announced today that it is moving away from its new ClubLocal business, which connects consumers with service providers. The publicly-owned company said that it is now considering a deal that would allow ClubLocal to be taken over by a “major” local entity along with a group that includes ex CEO Zorik Gordon and CSO Michael Kline. At the same time, ReachLocal would maintain a large investment in the business.

It is not a done deal. The company said it will “go shop,” or look at all options for the ClubLocal business until December 24.

ReachLocal’s move last Spring to develop “ClubLocal,” a consumer facing business to assign home repair jobs to vetted local services, met with some head-shaking within the industry. Reach has been seen primarily as a B2B service that did not appear to have the core competency or brand to work with consumers.

The service, however, went ahead and launched in Dallas and San Francisco, perhaps spending between $12 million and $15 million on the initial development and rollout. The main idea was that if Reach could provide SMBs with leads and actually process transactions for them, it would make for a much longer lasting relationship than simply relying on advertising solutions.

One of our BIA/Kelsey users of ClubLocal in Dallas reports that it provides excellent service. But there haven’t been extensive reports on its early business results. Soon after the launch, however, there may have been internal dissension about the company’s strategic direction.

CEO Zorik Gordon left the company, along with President Nathan Hanks. CSO Michel Kline had also announced plans to leave, although at the end of 2013. No explanations have been provided for any of the departures. Hanks is not part of the new group that will run ClubLocal if the proposed deal goes through.

In a discussion with BIA/Kelsey today, interim CEO David Carlick and CFO Ross Lansbaum wouldn’t comment on the executive departures, but noted that there is a search going on for a fulltime CEO; that Reach has become more of an enterprise business; and that B2C services such as ClubLocal are “not really our sweetspot.”

Carlick also noted that ReachLocal is going full speed ahead with its new ReachEdge product, a marketing automation and website project for SMBs. In fact, the company is accelerating deployment in Canada.

“Edge is the back part of ReachLocal – getting people to look at the local merchant Website and other offerings, and converting those visits into customer engagments,” said Carlick. “We have found the things that our clients tend to be worst at – like turning merchants into customers. We achieve results that are 200-300 percent better than what most merchants do now.”

ReachLocal CEO Zorik Gordon Talks ‘ClubLocal’

ReachLocal is moving boldly to find new ways to boost the business of its SMB customers. While the independent sales organization is still largely supported by the sale of advertising packages to its 32,500 active advertisers, it is now focused on commerce oriented services that not only help businesses get found by consumers, but also helps them track results and schedule services.

Now, via a new service named ClubLocal, it will even book new business for SMBs at pre-negotiated rates, and accept payments via a Square-like, ClubLocal iPad app. Today, the company unveiled San Francisco as ClubLocal’s second test market, following a test in Dallas that started in July. The Dallas test has involved ”thousands” of completed jobs in over 20 categories.

In rolling out ClubLocal, ReachLocal provides consumers discounts of 20 percent or greater on typical area pricing for over 4,500 service job types, and fully vets the fully-licensed service professionals that partner with it. It also guarantees two hour service windows.

Over time, the company also will maintain a large base of reviews as part of its vetting process, as customers send in reviews after completing their final payment process. In Dallas, 40 percent of consumers have submitted reviews. As part of its San Francisco launch, ClubLocal is providing $100 in free home services to its first 1,000 Bay Area consumers.

Initial San Francisco categories include Plumbing, Handyman, Electrical, Heating and Air Conditioning, Appliance Repair, and Mobile Auto Detailing. Additional services will launch over the upcoming months.

We talked recently with ReachLocal CEO Zorik Gordon about ClubLocal. Gordon suggests that most people aren’t necessarily loyal to a single service provider in most categories – “that’s why you had Yellow Pages,” he says.

Gordon also says that the smart phone generation basically values service guarantees, pricing transparency and convenience above all else. Up to now, “there hasn’t been a Walmart for services pricing,” he says. Gordon also suggests that existing service models such as Angie’s List and Home Advisor require too much work and are inconsistent – and have only scratched the surface in terms of customers.

Ultimately, consumers will make ClubLocal a habit when they need to order home services, just as they’ve made Uber a habit for taxis, Open Table a habit for restaurant reservations and Groupon a habit for deals.

ClubLocal directly addresses the “Booking and Buying” portion of the marketing funnel, says Gordon – a portion that Uber, OpenTable and Groupon have shown is increasingly important in today’s marketplace. Indeed, Gordon predicts that “local will be more about commerce than advertising ten years from now.”

ReachLocal CEO Zorik Gordon keynotes BIA/Kelsey’s “Leading in Local: SMB Digital Marketing” conference in Austin Sept. 11-13, joining a roster that also includes Home Advisor Europe CEO Simon Greenman and other leaders. Register here.