Tag Archives: Google

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.

Next Steps For Groupon As Andrew Mason Departs

It was just a matter of “when,” but Groupon has finally relieved Andrew Mason of his CEO duties after a quarter in which Groupon widely missed its mark because of its very high expenses and serious international issues, despite growing 30 percent year over year. Vice Chair Ted Leonsis and Executive Chair Eric Lefkofsky will run the company until they find a new CEO for Groupon or perhaps, even sell it.

Groupon, of course, has been written off in some circles as a big fad that ultimately dis-served its SMB merchants– something we have never totally accepted. But the ongoing possibilities for Groupon are wide ranging.

The company isn’t currently sustainable, with its heavy sales-laden staffing (whoever said local is scaleable?) But just as #2 Living Social’s investors saw that it was more prudent to inject $110 million to keep it going for its next stage, Groupon, which is at least three times larger, is better off staying juiced for now.

It has massive merchant and consumer email lists, and a wide selection of B2B, scheduling, processing, mobile and loyalty technologies – plus a growing travel business, as well as a lower margin, Groupon Goods business. If its investors wanted to stay the course, it could certainly continue its march into Amazon-like ecommerce territory.

The elevation of Leonsis and Lefkofsky to acting co-chiefs has a lot of possibilities in itself. How about a couple of interesting, not-so-crazy scenarios? One is that Lekofsky could finally merge Groupon with his newer investment in Belly, the Groupon-like, Chicago-based loyalty play that has just celebrated its one millionth member.

More enticingly, in terms of scale, Leonsis could influence an acquisition of Groupon by American Express, which he serves as a board member. Amex has just opened up an ecommerce store as part of Amex Sync and needs to feed it.

Or Groupon could be sold to Amazon, which is investing heavily in the local deals space; or it could even be sold to Google, which had once offered $5 Billion for it. Perhaps Marissa Mayer at Yahoo will make a run for it. She was a major instigator of the Groupon negotiations as a Google exec.

As for Mason, he may not have been the ideal CEO of the relatively soul-less, deals department store that is currently Groupon. But he’s funny, and authentic, and has been a great spokesman for the “What do we do this weekend that is wild and offbeat” lifestyle that catapulted Groupon –and the deals space — into local’s biggest phenomenon ever.

Sometimes, Mason, reminds us, business isn’t merely about business. It’s about helping people live their lives. This is especially true at the local level in which Groupon has been a shining star.

Andrew Mason after his groundbreaking BIA/Kelsey Marketplaces keynote in March 2008

Google Re-Aims Zavers Coupon Program Beyond Groceries

Google Commerce last week introduced Zavers by Google, a coupon/transaction marketing management and loyalty rewards service that it purchased last November. Using Zavers, shoppers find offers on their websites and save them to their Zavers account. The offers are then automatically redeemed in real time when shoppers present their reward cards, mobile wallets or type-in their phone numbers.

The company is based in Kansas City and was founded in 2006. Under its original management, Zavers raised $4 Million and was aimed at providing targeted coupons for a number of grocery chains, including A&P, The Food Emporium, Price Chopper, Superfresh and Pathmar. D’Agostinos has now been added to this list.

Grocery relationships are potentially very important in the new transaction marketing space, given the volume of grocery offers. But grocery chains also represent the last frontier. They have been notably reluctant to upgrade their point of sales infrastructure to handle offers, track spending etc.

Under Google’s management, Zavers has been integrated with Incentive Targeting, a software platform that Google bought last year to help create behaviorally-targeted promotions. Zavers now appears to be more broadly aimed at retailers in general, as well as brands. In fact, it makes it debut this week at The National Retail Federation/Shop.org conference in New York.

The broader approach to retailers potentially puts Zavers on a collision path with transaction marketing companies oriented towards financial institutitions, such as Cardlytics, Cartera, Edo Interactive and MasterCard’s TruAxis – something that would have seemed far-fetched just last year.

It also is better positioned to complement Google Wallet, an ambitious Google Commerce undertaking that has had a slow start but continues to pursue a path to enable consumers to store and redeem coupons and deals, while managing bill pay and other spending.

It’s All Local: Why Apple Has to Get Maps Right

As the New York Times noted this morning, Apple’s initial iOS6 foray into mobile maps has been greeted with a thumbs down by iPhone 5 reviewers, who prefer the polished Google Maps experience that was the prior default.

But maps –and by extension, local — are strategically important to Apple’s future. You can bet Apple will push hard to get them right. This is no Ping-like exercise, where Apple launches something and then discontinues it.

Apple first signaled its interests in maps in October 2009 with its purchase of PlaceBase – an API company that let developers map locations and services with pushpins.

Where can Apple go with maps – and for that matter, Google, Amazon, Microsoft/Nokia, Yahoo and AOL? Our take on maps is that they’re part of a tandem with data, and the integration of maps, geo fencing techniques, proximity search, and data such as public transit info and listings creates rich opportunities for targeted advertising (“Mapvertising”) and services.

Maps, of course, have come along way from simple store locators, which were the first online application. Just as store locators today are widely integrated with listing data, coupons and other information, you can expect to see the same trajectory in other segments. Deal mapping, for instance, has already had an impact with such companies as The DealMap (now owned by Google), 8Coupons and Bargain Babe LA making it easy to see where the deals are.

Other map concepts have been out there as well, including public transit maps (HopStop), garage maps, jogging maps (Trails.com) and wedding maps (weddingmapper.com.) With the rise of mobile, the key is that they not only provide citywide vertical info for a number of localities (i.e. Zillow maps), but also provide national seamlessness.

It has been noted that maps are the top part of the data pyramid and that if you can map it, everything else is easy. That’s probably true. It’s also true that some of the map centric activity has been premature or out of context. Some of the map-centric directories, ad networks and map-centric SEO efforts have been a little ahead of their time, and also, not always easy enough to use.

MapQuest’s efforts to monetize as a directory showed promise but wasn’t an instant hit. More recently, ABC News got rid of its interesting-but-unessential iPad app, which featured a spinning globe of news stories.

Despite some false starts, Apple has figured out that it has to be in the middle of maps to compete in the next generation of mobile services. We’re excited about Apple’s validation of the power of mapping in local online media and commerce, and expecting to see great progress in short order.

SMB Digital 2012: Google Execs Discuss New Products and Local Progress

Google’s role in the SMB Digital Marketing community is huge, and at SMB Digital Marketing in Chicago today, two Google execs described some of the company’s activities that have impacted SMB marketing.

Speaking on reseller side as an exec in the newly renamed “Channel Sales” division, Ben Wood noted that mobile and social have really been driving a lot of the new activity. Google research shows that one in three mobile searches are now local oriented he said, compared to one in five desktop searches. Channel sales , which is manned with 100 people around the world, has 350 partners and is in 44 countries.

New products include zip code targeting and congressional district targeting, in time for the 2012 U.S. elections. “It is much better targeting” for SMBs, he said. “They are the most requested (products) we’ve had for a few years.

Wood also noted that Google has done a lot to make its products more social, starting with the conversion of Google Places to Google +. “Google+ can really turbo charge marketing,” he said. “It can increase click thru rates by 5-10 percent.”

Results have generally been strong for partners, which have given it a 93 percent satisfaction level., up from 32 percent just a couple of years ago. “If you are not making money, why on Earth would you want to sell our products?” he said.

Google YouTube analyst Valentine Matrat addressed YouTube’s relatively new effort to court SMBs for advertising. She provided advice on what SMBs should do to boost traffic and engagement. “You want to really show people why its great to show up in your store,” she said. “Video has been around for 71 years. It can really be at the center of your ecosystem.”

New YouTube products include a video creation marketplace, which matches advertisers with videos, and Google Hangout, which sets up online engagement with customers, even doing two way taping that can later be used for testimonials.

Google Buys Wildfire: Social/Loyalty Anchor?

Google is adding Wildfire to its social-oriented suite of business services, paying “about $250 Million,” according to a source cited by The Wall Street Journal. The San Francisco-based company provides social media analytics for 16,000 customers, ranging from large SMBs to major brands such as Amazon, Unilever and Virgin.

Wildfire launched in 2008 as a self-serve platform that used sweepstakes on Facebook fan pages to build engagement. It has since added contests, deals, giveaways, quizzes, voting, trivia and other activities.

As CEO Victoria Ransom recently told BIA/Kelsey, Wildfire is all about “continual engagement” over social networks. It especially adds value to businesses by analyzing the best ways that they can engage and target customers with social services such as Facebook, Twitter and PInterest.

Facebook’s timeline, for instance, added a 22 percent jump in photo sharing and a 90 percent jump in video sharing. This kind of analytics can be especially valuable in shoring up the value of Google’s YouTube.

Google’s acquisition immediately extends integrated marketing efforts for Google properties such as Double Click and AdMeld via WildFire’s partnership with Adapt.ly. To be sure, social is an increasing part of their account business.

In our view, however, Google’s interest in Wildfire is ultimately more about social business services than advertising. Down the road, we look to Wildfire’s analytics reinforcing Google +, which anchors a broader suite of SMB services that includes Google Offers, The DealMap (deal aggregation), Zagat (reviews) and Punch’d (loyalty).

MLM San Francisco: Google Keynoters Focus on Optimizing Mobile

Google sees great usage and potential for mobile with features such as Google Maps, “which is one of the most popular Apps on any phone,” noted Surojit Chatterjee, head of mobile search ad products, who was co-keynoting at MLM San Francisco.

Mobile “is an extension of the Web” and can get “better usage than banner ads,” says Chatterjee. But mobile also has many challenges, especially the siloizatoin of apps. Google is working to point users to the right app,” he said.

Some opportunities are more obvious. Click to call, for instance, “has very strong adoption. It is getting even better” as Google integrates more technology that provides better interfaces, better data for execution and better measurement. Chatterjee notes that the average call duration is six or seven minutes long, and provides ample data for measuring sales quality.

Co-keynoter Brendon Kraham, Global Mobile Sales and Product Strategy, noted that “mobile is changing the way that people interact. All mobile is new behavior,” he said. It is especially hyperlocal. Priceline, for instance, said that 65 percent percent of its people looked for deals within 20 miles, 35 percent within one mile and 85 percent of those searching for a deal with mobile used the deal within one day of a search.

“Discovery is critical,” he said. “If they build it,they will come.” Kraham also said that SMBs risk being left behind. Consumers are 18 months ahead of businesses in their embrace of mobile,” he said.