It’s clear that mobile traffic is growing and will soon overtake web visits on most hyperlocal sites. Many sites experiencing mobile growth have prepared by launching mobile versions and apps for their service. This is a good strategy for gaining users and increasing engagement, however many sites are experiencing a per-user ad revenue drop because mobile UIs have less real estate for ads (especially banners) and lower CPMs.
The good news is that mobile CPMs are predicted to soon surpass those on the web as advertisers recognize their value and the market matures. Yelp seems to have found a solution to increasing ad revenue by bundling its web, mobile web, and app impressions. By doing this, the reviews site has taken the CPM difference between web and mobile out of the equation. The limited real estate for mobile UIs still remains, although having large amounts of content (reviews) allows the user to scroll and slight opportunity to show additional banners without degrading user experience.
Another revenue model that works well in a web/mobile world on hyperlocal sites is charging for “enhanced listings.” Enhanced listing services appeal to many SMBs and local brands because they are a holistic advertising medium that goes beyond the basic banner or text ad — not only do they stand out against free listings and hold the user’s attention, but they also drive conversion and social interaction at higher rates. Hyperlocal reviews sites can in turn focus on bringing new tools and great experiences to their users to increase engagement and attract a larger audience.
One potential problem for hyperlocals is that in many cases users will engage with listings on a site but then won’t transact through it. At Expedia, TripAdvisor, and other such sites, it’s well documented that some users research and compare hotels on the site, and then separately go to the hotel site to book. At Judy’s Book we see the same use case with other categories, and I’ve even caught myself doing it with other ecommerce sites I use. By offering enhanced listings, a hyperlocal reviews/commerce site gets closer to actually being the marketing agency for the business and helps drive the customer to the sale, agnostic of the site the transaction takes place on. The more touchpoints a local site offers to a business (helping with likes, followers, conversion, new customers, syndication of listing, etc…) while still keeping a level of neutrality between users and businesses, the better positioned that site will be to convert the merchants to enhanced listings customers.
Most sites currently lack unique enhanced listing features specific to mobile. As mobile use increases sites can add specific mobile enhanced listing features to their arsenal. BIA/Kelsey’s Mike Boland, wrote in a recent Street Fight post that he thinks multimedia is key: “Smartphone saturation and wireless broadband have created a fertile environment for video production and sharing via applications like Vine.” I would add that there are other areas sites can enhance listings with mobile features.
- Better location and social-specific analytics.
Showing real-time location of potential customers, whether they are a current customer or not, competitor stores they’ve engaged with (visited, purchased, reviewed, etc…) then analyzing by demographics including gender, age, income, children in household and education. This gives an SMB data for long- and short-term decisions that they can act on. One example: pushing coupons to customers they want to attract and think they have the highest chance of converting.
- Allowing owners control over images, videos, and messages in their mobile pages.
On most sites that offer enhanced listing services, the owner can add photos and customize an “about” message or tagline. Merchants typically try and add as much info (text) and photos as possible, and while that practice might be okay on the web, it really doesn’t work well on a mobile UI. Allowing an owner to pick different criteria for each (with tips on how best to optimize) can be the best of both worlds.
- Mobile punch-card features.
These encourage loyalty and repeat business. Packaging this enhanced feature through integration of an existing service or developing a simple in-house version can give SMBs the ability to build loyalty and get return customers and save them money from having to use a separate solution.
- Leveraging voice in mobile apps.
One problem with gaining reviews off mobile devices is the level of friction. What if all a person had to do was speak their review into a smartphone, then have the app convert it to text for display to other customers and SEO? As voice recognition technology improves it’ll be much easier for owners and sites to quickly gather reviews and leverage them.