Category Archives: Misc

Analysis: Walmart’s Pull-out from Google’s Local Inventory Ads

Building ecommerce, promotions, search, social and same day delivery services around store inventory is one of those high concept ideas that always make so much sense but have been tough to build around. Key players in the space currently include Google, Retailigence and others. Others, such as eBay, have pulled out or shrunk their efforts.

We’ve been especially interested in Walmart’s decision last week to pull its feeds from Google’s Local Inventory Ads (formerly known as Local Product Listing Ads). Launched in 2013 to complement Google’s e-commerce oriented Shopping ads, the ads allow stores to highlight local inventory and prices, and point shoppers to specific stores. Macy’s, REI and Office Depot are among users of the Google service, but most top retailers are still not participating.

Some of those that do apparently have been holding their noses. To participate with Google, they need to provide comprehensive inventory information. Walmart and others have apparently worried this information could be used against them, showing retailers where they can compete on price against it in different parts of the country.

Perhaps more importantly, retailers are worried that their feeds are infrequently updated and can contain inaccuracies and steer shoppers down the wrong path. Such feeds also may freeze the ability of retailers to engage in variable pricing strategies (i.e. “one hour afternoon specials”). In our view, Walmart’s pull out doesn’t mean that Google and others can’t succeed. But it does mean that it will need to make adjustments to work with dominent retailers that have a lot at stake.

Are there better strategies to collect and leverage inventory at local stores? We’ll be talking inventory strategies with retail expert and former Krillion CEO Sherry Thomas-Zon at BIA/Kelsey NATIONAL in Dallas March 25-27.

NATIONAL Focus: Where2GetIt’s Manish Patel on ‘Chief Location Officers’

Chief Marketing Officers will become “Chief Location Officers” if Where2GetIt CEO Manish Patel has any say about it. Patel is a featured speaker at BIA/Kelsey National in Dallas March 25-27 appearing on a platform leaders panel with Netsertive’s Brendan Morrissey, Yext’s Christian Ward and LocalBizNow’s Todd Webber.

Brands have made a lot of progress in localizing their efforts, says Patel. But they are still playing catch up with their local targeting efforts, considering all the opportunities they have at their disposal.

Patel, whose company works with over 500 brands, emphasizes that “Local needs to take center stage.” To do that, the industry can’t have every feature or channel in a silo. “You can’t have a mobile guy, a review guy and a social guy,” he says. “Someone from the marketing team needs to know someone at the location” who can tie together reviews, competitive intelligence, search and mobile advertising – as well as the brand executives who handle real estate and operations.

“Everything is tied into the ecosystem,” adds Patel, who will discuss best practices during his appearance at NATIONAL. “When a customer search is not successful they don’t blame Google. They blame the brand. Accurate location information is paramount.”

Where2GetIt CEO Manish Patel

Acxiom Launches Self Serve SMB Marketing Effort

Acxiom_Logo

Consumer data giant Acxiom is moving downstream with a self-serve leads products tailored to SMBs. The new SMB product, “MyAcxiomPartner,” allows SMBs to develop customer lists on a hyperlocal basis, using either addresses or polygon mapping.

The effort is part of Acxiom’s “Audience Operating System,” a consumer data campaign management tool that has been developed at a cost estimated at tens of millions of dollars. The AOS is part of a vision by CEO Scott Howe to enable Acxiom’s data to be easily and readily available to all kinds of marketers across many channels. Howe’s mantra is to use Big Data to enable more precise marketing.

Using MyAcxiomPartner, lists can also be developed based on several other criteria, including behavioral and demographic elements and over 4,000 scored models (i.e. marketing propensities such as “Mid size SUV” or “Brand Name Apparel.”) Costs begin at $100 or $200, based on criteria involved.

In a briefing with BIA/Kelsey, VP of Global Partner Development Jeff Standridge notes that Acxiom is targeting SMB owners for MyAcxiomPartner that have annual revenues ranging anywhere from “a few hundred thousand dollars to tens of millions of dollars.”

“We’re putting audience selection in the hands of SMB owners that don’t have campaign experience,” says Standridge. “We enable smart media purchases; for target audiences to be identified; and for SMBs to plan and execute media.”

A limousine company, for instance, can develop a list targeting several hundred likely customers for a self-serve mobile banner campaign. In this specific example, Acxiom has teamed up with 4Info for the mobile ad component, which also enables customers to upload their own graphics and deployments.

Acxiom CEO Scott Howe is keynoting BIA/Kelsey’s Leading in Local: SMB Digital Marketing event in New Orleans Sept. 22-24. You can register here.

Home Advisor’s Chris Terrill: Poised for Growth, New Services

Almost two years ago, IAC was in a tough situation. It had a leading services referral business in ServiceMagic, whose main rival was Angie’s List, the paid subscription service. But the service wasn’t growing; had relatively low brand awareness; and seemed to be in danger of getting bypassed by a new crop of social media driven services.

In an episode of creative destruction, IAC, along with new CEO Chris Terrill, made the decision to rename the company to “Home Advisor”; and narrow its focus to home services. Terrill later refocused the company’s primary business model from pay per lead to monthly subscriptions that would include a variety of value added social media and directory services (pay per lead options remain available).

Today, the Home Advisor brand may not be as well known as ServiceMagic at its peak. It also remains under the radar in the business world. That is partly explained by the company not being VC backed or publicly traded as a separate company outside of IAC, says Terrill. “We don’t get written about as much.”

But Terrill says that the company remains one of the largest home service networks, with 80,000 service pros, two million reviews and 30 million home owner requests. It is also growing and profitable, and highly focused on “strategic sales.”

And it is focusing more on the awareness issue, conducting an ambitious TV campaign to reach more home owners. It will be spending even more on TV in coming months, with budgets that are in the “tens of millions” of dollars.

The picture looks bright going forward for Home Advisor and the entire home services space, says Terrill. Over the next couple of years, Terrill says Home Advisor will have a singular focus on growing its U.S. business.

“A lot of small entrants are coming into the space,” such as Pro.com, the service launched by former Amazon leaders (not to mention Amazon’s own entrance into the space.) “We see the local home space heating up,” he says. But Home Advisor remains a leader in the space – competing against players such as Angie’s List, Yelp and Home Depot’s Red Beacon — and continues to add building blocks, Terrill says.

Today, for instance, the company announced the purchase of Mhelpdesk, a 30-person Fairfax, VA-based company that helps service pros manage their businesses, and allows home owners to directly book services – especially over mobile phones. The service has over 10,000 service pros.

Terrill says that Mhelpdesk is a leader in a “rapidly growing space” that will prove increasingly important to the company. “It could not have worked 2,3,4 years ago,” he says, before the popularization of cloud-based mobile devices for SMB service providers. “It’s an important piece of the puzzle.”

A Look at the GOLOCAL Finalists: The Best in National Local

The Finalists for BIA/Kelsey’s GOLOCAL Awards have been announced. The winner of the final stage will be announced at LEADING IN LOCAL: The National Impact during a special session on May 8 highlighting finalists.(The conference runs May 7-9 and takes place in Atlanta).

The Awards were the result of a brainstorm with our friends at Balihoo, who agreed to sponsor them. We wanted to showcase the Best in Local online and mobile campaigns by national and regional players in the U.S. and Canada . The results are totally objective – we recruited an ace group of independent “national local” experts. The judges include Dave Walker, Rhonda Hills, Kerry Hatch, Brian Costello, Matt Booth and Tom Bates.

In the end, we had 36 finalists. The quality was phenomenal from everyone. It ended up being quite a learning experience.

The Finalists (in alpha):

1. Eventful/Fox Broadcasting: Fox worked with Eventful to run an integrated digital marketing campaign for Sleepy Hollow fans. It got 30,000+ fans in 2,972 cities to participate (and 1.04 million trailer views).
2. Eyeview/Lowe’s : Lowe’s developed a campaign to target local consumers via Big Data and geotargeted videos that customized pricing and product information from its closest stores.
3. Placeable/AAA Carolinas: AAA Carolinas launched a flexible, scaleable solution to manage and normalize location data and deploy it across its own website, search engines and social nets.
4. Tribune Broadcasting/Walmart. To promote Walmart’s last-minute holiday gift alerts, Tribune replicated the look and feel of a a TV “live shot” news report, customizing it for specific DMAs.
5. Vicinity: One of Canada’s fastest growing loyalty networks ran a digital and print campaign across a variety of targeted channels products over 136 businesses and 25,000+ new cardholders.
6. YP/Quiznos: Quiznos used mobile ads in three markets to target their competitors’ customers, boosting sales 6 percent over national average.
7. YP: YP created a bundled package for advertisers consisting of search, online listings management and mobile display. The program drove $1.2 million YP revenues and reduced lead costs for its advertisers.
8. xAd/Situation Interactive/MAMMA MIA: MAMMA MIA targeted New York tourists and area residents at key points of interest. The effort matched place-based targeting with real-world mobile behavioral data.

Speaker Update for Leading in Local: The National Impact, Atlanta, May 7-9

The spanking new program is set for Leading in Local: The National Impact, which is May 7-9 in Atlanta.

We’ve put together a great list of 55 hand-picked speakers – all centered on what’s really happening in local with a special, unprecedented eye on the all important franchise and brand customer — plus a unique tour of The Weather Company (and a chance to meet weather celebrity Sam Champion.)

Leading executives and thought leaders with advanced franchise and brand applications for local are at the top of the bill, including:

Chip Perry, Independent Consultant, AutoTrader’s ‘First Employee’
Curt Hecht, Global CRO, The Weather Co.
Mark Marinacci, President, Gannett/GO Digital
David Lebow, SVP, National, YP
Mitch Spolan, EVP, Global Retail, Living Social

And we’ve added some great session speakers, including:

John Gregory, Chief Category Development Officer, AOL
JonPaul Rexing, director of sales, ESPN Local
Kevin Vanes, director, national sales and partnerships, Angie’s List.
Meribeth Papuga, Exec VP and Director of Local Activation, MediaVest

The centerpiece of the conference is several key sessions where we go deep on search, geotargeting, digital agencies, cross channel and loyalty programs. Leaders will share their local insights from top franchise groups and brands representing most of the top local verticals, including auto dealers, real estate, restaurants/dining, health services, insurance, travel, consumer packaged goods, moving and cleaning. The companies appearing include a vital cross- section of U.S. commerce:

AAA of the Carolinas
Aflac
AutoTrader
General Mills
Genghis Grill
McKesson Health
Maid Right
Scion
Two Men and a Truck

Will you join the BIA/Kelsey local community in Atlanta? Register

GrubHub IPOs: GrubHub and the ‘Food’ Segment

photo courtesy of Crain’s Chicago Business

All eyes are on “local” this morning on Wall Street, with GrubHub’s IPO off to a great start. The company has placed 7.4 million shares priced at $26, or $192.4 million. The shares closed at $34.

We’ve been watching GrubHub’s IPO with real interest. The Chicago-based online take out ordering company – which merged last August with Seamless, its primary competitor – represents a key local “food” anchor, along with Open Table, UrbanSpoon, Groupon (reservations); Yelp and Google+ (reviews); and eventually, Amazon, WalMart, Google,eBay, TBD (grocery delivery).

It has 28.8K restaurants and 135,000 daily orders. Forty-three percent of its activity now takes place from mobile devices, a key metric in this space which relies on impulse purchasing. The company has operations in most major U.S. cities, but is strongly penetrated in several.

In this area, which might loosely be termed as “food,” the silos are falling fast – they each do a little of each. We expect to see a major land grab by the key players that are already in the space, and the possible addition of other tech and retail players.

At its most basic level, GrubHub views, confirms and tracks food orders, It makes its money from commissions of roughly 10-12 percent. Last year, it made $137 million. But the company’s value extends beyond order taking. It acts as a giant search and discovery engine that can bring customers back to locations, and recommend others when they are in the mood for something else.

The cost to use GrubHub is relatively high. There have been anecdotes in the press about some restaurants quitting GrubHub, seeing a drop in orders, but making higher profits. Obviously, these reports are not the general consensus, as the company continues to grow.

But the best way for restaurants to justify its cost is if they chalk it off as a promotional expense. GrubHub executives like to point out that it is ultimately cheaper and more retentive to spend on GrubHub than on a deals site such as Groupon, with its high commission structure taking 30-50 percent, on top of high discounting off menu prices.

While GrubHub has a nice lead in this space for now, the key for it now will be to extend its brand and reach. Its brand awareness remains low, and it is mostly known among niches such as office workers and college students. The company’s current competitors include Delivery.com, which claims a roster of almost 10,000 restaurants in 50 cities; and Eat24.com, which covers 20,000 restaurants in 1,000 cities across the country.

We’ll be watching for activity from companies such as Yelp, Google and other players too, either via start up or acquisition.