As more and more consumers look to buy, as well as find and discover local businesses, online, the industry is shuffling to adapt. During a panel at Street Fight Summit in New York Thursday, panelists from Yelp, Bing, and Yext gathered to discuss the evolving role of commerce in the local search industries, and strategies for the industry to adapt.
“By 2020, 50 billion connected devices will work to inform business and consumers,” Christian Ward, EVP Partnernships at Yext shared as the panel discussed how to make it easier to drive offline and online conversion for consumers. “It’s all about where the consumers are and where they’re going. The trick in all of this is to build data systems to allow for that sort of dialogue to occur.”
At Microsoft, solving the “local data” problem begins and ends with the user experience, said Duane Forrester, Senior Product Manager at Bing. “The number one thing we focused on is the ease of use to the consumer,” he said during the panel Thursday.
As companies like Uber allow users to buy local services online, commerce functionality is becoming a key differentiator for local search companies. Earlier this year, Yelp introduced its Platform initiative to allow users to arrange food deliveries and pick up in-store directly from the a business page, providing a more integrated experience for users. Yelp plans to expand across other categories including spas, salons, and dentist appointments.
“When we think about the big picture of the platform, there is an opportunity to go after every vertical,” said Peter Curzon, Business Development at Yelp. “We need an action that is of interest to the user and pursues that path of whatever that intent is for the consumer.”
In addition, panelists also stressed the importance of semantic mark in improving the user experience. According to Forrestor, semantic markup can increase the click through rate on a search result up to 70% . However, the businesses data has to be accurate and available. “Businesses have the responsibility to manage data, and they have to be diligent. Marking things up is the future,” Forrester added.
Inventory has emerged as another hot topic in the local search space. Ward spoke about its potential but pointed to massive pitfalls, which still limit its growth – namely, the ability to do it in real-time. “We’re pushing out businesses inventory in real time to all the directory sites. If you can’t do real time, everything is sort of mute,” he said.
As for the future of the local search industry, Forrester believes the end game is when technology can allow a business to know where a consumer is going next and allowing marketers to deliver content to consumers that improves their experience along the way.
Myriah Towner is an intern at Street Fight.
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