We start off with TourByLocal getting $25M to match tourists with 4,000 guides in 162 countries, Albertsons launching Pinterest-Powered In-Store mobile recipes, and Google buying Pointy to boost brick&mortar retail.
After the Worldline interview from NRF, we continue with news from our two member companies: Gimbal giving mobile users control over their location data and Delta reducing travel stress with updated app features.
I’m fresh from a couple of days wandering the halls of the Consumer Electronics Show, affectionately known as CES — the annual conference that descends upon Las Vegas in January and proffers the latest in technological solutions to improve every aspect of our daily lives. This is my first time attending the world’s biggest technology conference, where 4,500 companies this year are vying for the attention of 180,000 attendees, according to my Uber driver.
As I made my way through the crowds at the massive Las Vegas Convention Center and other conference venues, I tried to get a sense of the common themes defining consumer innovation as we begin a new decade.
A recent announcement that Amazon, Apple, Google, and the Zigbee Alliance are working on an open-source network standard is likely to lead to even more investment in connected devices among retailers. The open-source network that the group is working to develop is supposed to make life easier for IoT hardware vendors and software developers, but it also serves a secondary purpose of assuring retailers investing in connected technology that their budgets aren’t being wasted. With a common IoT communication and control standard, smart devices will be even more reliable and seamless to use in the coming years.
“Open source will bring businesses more agility and enable them to process data quickly while simultaneously producing valuable insights,” says Heikki Nousiainen, chief technology officer at Aiven, a firm that develops managed cloud service hosting for software infrastructure services.
Location Weekly Episode #445 is ready to help you keep yourselves up to date over the holidays. Starting with a discussion on the New York Times article “One Nation, Tracked,” we also discuss Uber Works launching in Miami, the team-up of Amazon, Apple, and Google to make smart homes interoperable, and Goodwill reaching 1.4M mobile devices with location data via Teemo.
David Mihm and Mike Blumenthal offer their take on a decade in local search. Among other topics, they take stock of Google’s dominance.
Mike: Now, it seems that the battle to become the hegemon of local has been signed, sealed, and delivered by Google not just in the US but worldwide. Their well-played hand with Android seems to have been the push they needed. And they managed to gain a totally dominant position IN SPITE of the Google Plus fiasco, which started around that time.
David: Google Plus! I’d honestly forgotten about that debacle already. In our little corner of the world, the fact that Google could waste all those years, person hours, and billions of dollars developing Google Plus and still ascend to its current position in local search shows you just what a colossal opportunity Facebook has missed in this space.
This week we’re discussing DeliveryHero buying Woowa Brothers for $4B, Mad Systems being granted a patent for location-based facial recognition platform, Lyft entering the car rental market for $35/day, Walmart teaming with Digimarc to make its print toy catalogue shoppable, Google focusing on local and PlaceIQ & FourthWall Media partnering to link TV ads with in-store visits.
2019 was a hectic year for many in the social and technology spaces, and we expect that theme to carry into 2020: the “new normal” will become just “normal.” We are optimistic about this new year but also foresee some systemic changes as to how mobile technology will continue transforming our lives while allowing us more control.
If it had not already been clear that building up a significant inventory of positive online reviews is key to attracting new customers to a business, let doubt linger no further.
A whopping 52 percent of consumers ages 18-54 “always” read reviews when searching for local businesses, and only 53 percent will consider a businesses with fewer than four stars, according to survey of 1,005 US-based consumers by marketing platform BrightLocal. Eighty-two percent of consumers overall read online reviews.
As SinglePlatform’s name suggests, the acquisition is a sign of changing and challenging times for search-related internet businesses. Facing pressure from a Google juggernaut that is increasingly mapping out any imaginable search experience on its own properties, digital services that connect consumers with restaurants or places to visit when traveling are consolidating, aiming to offer holistic information that keeps searchers coming back.
A tweet on Monday from Google search liaison Danny Sullivan provides an explanation for the rankings shakeup that has perplexed the local search community since the beginning of November. Google began using neural matching to generate local search results.
Local search has just undertaken a huge evolutionary step. No longer are local results being matched to user queries solely on the basis of identifiable ranking factors, such as proximity to searcher, keywords in business names, primary category of the listing, review count, and so on. That isn’t to say such factors are now unimportant, but they have been augmented by a broader and more general sense of relevance delivered by neural matching.
For Brandify’s local search consumer survey, consumers were asked to name the tools they’ve used in the last 30 days to find information about businesses nearby. Though a vast majority of 77% named Google Maps over any other tool, there was a significant “second tier” group including Facebook at 38%, Yelp at 35%, and business websites at 32%.
The study also asked consumers about the frequency of searches, the range of businesses for which they searched, preferred devices, and the likelihood of visiting a business after searching.
David: I’ve been thinking quite a bit about our product mix at ThriveHive recently. And in particular the segmentation of the various offerings of our newly combined GateHouse/Gannett company by customer budget.
It has surprised me, frankly, that so few agencies seem to go to market with the essential digital marketing bundle for local businesses you and I proposed exactly two years ago. In re-reading that article, I’d still give the same advice today and with even more urgency based on the rollout of Local Service Ads.
Mike to David: To some extent, the Google “method” of release quickly, break often, iterate, and finally reject or accept a change collides very directly when it interfaces with the much slower-moving real world.
David: This speaks to our ongoing antitrust discussion and whether business harm is a justifiable prong on which to spear Google. Volatility is one thing, but a broken utility is another. And realistically, because of Google’s market position, small businesses have nowhere to turn when that utility is flat-out failing on fundamental levels.
Prescriptions by Google, then? The company indeed lacks Amazon’s delivery capabilities but has a stranglehold on search and therefore on consumers’ connections to local businesses. It is not hard to imagine a world in which Google appears to keep its privacy promise by refusing to sell ads directly based on Fitbit user data but still capitalizes on the data by using it to connect Fitbit users with local health care service providers, pharmacists, and even gyms. That would just constitute one more way Google is edging out the digital middlemen that once closed the loop from Google search to a local service provider.
The putative benefits of competing in vertically oriented channels come at a greater cost than was the case when GMB provided a unitary platform for all industries. Simply put, Google is serving the specialized needs of price-conscious travelers or those who want greater assurances when hiring a service professional, and in so doing, the company is creating additional channels to generate revenue through ads. More and more businesses will have to get used to spending their way toward greater exposure to their desired audiences — which is only odd in light of the fact that so much of local marketing has historically been organic in nature.
David Mihm to Mike Blumenthal: As for our Halloween topic, a spooky good SEO, Scott Hendison, tweeted a link over the weekend that I found fascinating: https://crowdsource.google.com. Even for those of us who are used to these kinds of initiatives coming from Google, it’s the most brazen public effort we’ve seen to train their machine learning algorithm via user contributions across a whole range of data types.
Mike: It is certainly brazen. There is NO attempt to bury this as an activity within some other program like their Captcha. It’s a gamification of their ML plain and simple, and if I know Google, the reward will be either insignificant or worse: a discount on some “premium product” (i.e., an ad).