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March 23, 2017

What Foursquare Analytics Means to Brands

By Adam Dorfman

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On March 20, Foursquare officially unveiled Foursquare Analytics, which Foursquare describes as “Google Analytics, but for the real world.” Foursquare Analytics consists of a dashboard that businesses may use to better understand consumer behavior at brick-and-mortar locations. According to Mike Harkey, vice president of business development at Foursquare, the dashboard can help businesses ranging from retailers to restaurants improve their location marketing by getting insight such as why sales drop or increase in different locations and who their best customers are — all based on information that Foursquare collects from consumers’ smartphones as they check in and out of locations.

 

For example, Foursquare can tell TJ Maxx that 5 percent of the retailer’s shoppers visit TJ Maxx locations about every other week, and eight out of 10 shoppers visited TJ Maxx two times or more in the past 12 months. The high-frequency shoppers were responsible for 40 percent of TJ Maxx’s foot traffic in February, which represented a 30 percent increase over February 2016. Foursquare has been working with businesses such as Equinox, H&M, Taco Bell, and TGI Fridays to test the dashboard.

 

Our take: the rollout of Foursquare Analytics is not surprising. The only real surprise is that Foursquare didn’t launch the dashboard sooner. Foursquare has been actively mining its 93 million mapped locations to position itself as a location data powerhouse to businesses for the past few years. For example, in 2015, Foursquare launched Pinpoint, which uses consumers’ location data to help businesses create more targeted advertising to consumers. Among many other developments, Foursquare has also developed relationships with businesses such as OpenTable and Uber to make it easier for users of those apps to book rides and dinner reservations with businesses that are on Foursquare.

 

Foursquare is one of the “data amplifiers,” a term that SIM Partners coined to describe the data aggregators (such as Acxiom, Factual, Infogroup, and Neustar) and publishers (such as Apple, Bing, Foursquare, Google, and Yelp) that share a business’s location data across the digital world, where people conduct “near me” searches. As noted in a recent Search Engine Land column, data amplifiers are important to any business with a brick-and-mortar location because amplifiers wield a disproportionate amount of influence. When a data amplifier such as Foursquare possesses accurate location data for your business, you enjoy a ripple effect as Foursquare shares your data with more customers than a second-tier directory could ever reach.

 

Our advice to brands: invest your time and effort building relationships with data amplifiers instead of paying to have your location data directly managed on tier-two directories. Foursquare is one of those amplifiers. Clearly, its future is not about check-ins but about data. SIM Partners maintains relationships with all data amplifiers. We are in a position to help you publish data more efficiently on these platforms. Contact us to get started.

March 17, 2017

Are Your Business Locators Making Money for You?

By Adam Dorfman

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When consumers visit a company’s business locator, chances are they are already interesting in becoming customers. And yet too many brands fail to convert that interest into revenue. The sins of bad locators are many: they’re often loaded with extraneous details that distract users, they don’t include enough useful information about hours and directions, and they fail to optimize content for mobile. By treating business locators as revenue generators, brands can make them more user friendly experiences that encourage a path to purchase. My new column for Search Engine Land, “10 Ways to Improve Your Business Locators,” provides practical tips for wringing more value out of locators. Check it out and contact us to discuss how we can help you.

February 6, 2017

Amazon Fires a Super Bowl Warning Shot to Brick-and-Mortar Businesses

By Jay Hawkinson

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If you were watching the Super Bowl 51 ads closely, you might have noticed Amazon putting brick-and-mortar retailers on notice. During a 10-second spot known as “Finger Lick,” a couple in their home watching television restock on Doritos by telling Amazon Alexa to “reorder delivers from Prime Air.” Then a voiceover announces, “Look for delivery soon” as a drone hovers outside the couple’s window. Very clever.

 

The ad was another reminder that Amazon is going to continue stepping into the turf defended by U.S. businesses that manage multiple brick-and-mortar locations. Amazon has already launched drone delivery in the United Kingdom, and getting necessary government approvals to do the same in the United States is going to take some time. But make no doubt: Amazon has the muscle and money to fight U.S. brick-and-mortar businesses for on-demand customers.

 

We saw other signs of Amazon’s intent when the company launched physical book stores and then announced the roll-out of Amazon Go grocery stores, which promise a frictionless shopping experience. But brick-and-mortar businesses don’t have their hands tied behind their backs. They have plenty of tools at their disposal to compete. For instance, Walmart’s pilot Pickup and Fuel stores offer dedicated drive-through for shoppers to pick up online grocery orders, and 7-Eleven has been piloting drone delivery in Nevada for months.

 

We recommend that brick-and-mortar retailers:

 

  • First set a foundation for stronger location marketing by getting the basics right: for example, ensure that your location data is accurate and that your content is optimized for search, especially mobile search.

 

  • Take a closer look at your customers’ on-demand habits. As Google has been noting for months, consumers in general are using mobile devices in “micro-moments” to make split-second decisions about where to go and what to buy.

 

  • Capitalize on something that Amazon does not have: an in-store experience. For instance, how well are you taking advantage of event-based marketing to create in-store promotions and integrating those promotions with your online content?

 

At SIM Partners, we work all the time with brick-and-mortar businesses to strengthen their location marketing through our Velocity platform, which manages location data and content. (In 2016, we introduced “Ride There with Uber” functionality to Velocity so that your customers can order Uber rides to your business directly from your location pages.) Contact us to discuss how we can help you.

December 9, 2016

Facebook Flexes Its Location Marketing Muscle

By Jay Hawkinson

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Facebook continues to strengthen its position as a go-to source for location marketing. The world’s largest social network has been rolling out a number of features to help businesses manage their location marketing presence. For example, in October, Facebook launched tools that make it easier for brands to provide services on demand, such as “request an appointment” for professional services and food ordering for restaurants and related businesses. In my recently published column for Adweek/Social Times, “It’s Time to Take Facebook Seriously for Location Marketing,” I discuss how businesses with brick-and-mortar locations can improve their own location marketing efforts on Facebook. I urge you to read my column and make sure Facebook is part of your location marketing strategy. Contact us to discuss how we can help you do so.

December 5, 2016

How Omnichannel Consumers Affect Location Marketing

By Adam Dorfman

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The rise of the omnichannel consumer has challenged businesses with brick-and-mortar locations to provide a consistent experience across channels and devices. Consumers expect brands to be present with relevant content whether consumers are interacting with them on Snapchat, Facebook, or through a Google search — and that experience needs to be seamless from search to the in-store experience. In my recently published Search Engine Land column, “How Brands Can Win with Omnichannel Discovery,” I discuss how businesses can successfully engage with omnichannel consumers by combining location data with compelling content across channels and devices. Check it out, and contact us to discuss how SIM Partners can help you improve your location marketing with omnichannel consumers.

 

December 1, 2016

Be Omnichannel or Go Home

By Adam Dorfman

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How was your Black Friday? I’ll bet your online sales were a bright spot, but your brick-and-mortar sales were a disappointment. Sources ranging from Business Insider to Mashable reported that retailers generated so much online revenue on Black Friday that the lines between Black Friday and Cyber Monday are rapidly blurring, and mobile purchases continue to climb. But in-store sales fell, as reported by Reuters.  It’s understandable that retailers might want to double down on their online efforts, but the offline experience remains a huge part of Black Friday, and retailers can do quite a bit to make their brick-and-mortar experience relevant to Black Friday shoppers.

For instance, retailers have many opportunities to provide a better in-store experience that shoppers cannot get online so easily (or not at all), such as personal concierges and amenities such as complimentary food and drinks. And they need to promote those services by updating their content wherever shoppers conduct near-me searches for Black Friday deals.

But more importantly, retailers need to do a better job catering to the omnichannel shopper by making it easier for shoppers to browse online and shop in-store. Here’s what Business Insider has to say about the matter:

Legacies are increasingly at risk of losing out on holiday sales as the retail market moves online. Traditional retailers, like Macy’s, Walmart, etc., still rely on their physical store locations for much of their revenue, but store performance is struggling as consumers shift online. Looking ahead to next year, omnichannel fulfillment options like click and collect or ship-from-store can help these retailers maximize the use of their brick-and-mortar locations over the holidays, as consumers increasingly rely on digital devices to shop. Moreover, leveraging the physical store for flexible fulfillment options like click and collect can be a boon for these retailers over the holidays when potential weather disruptions could impact home delivery.

The only point I disagree with is the part about “Looking ahead to next year.” Retailers should be acting like omnichannel merchants this year. They should have been doing so last year. On our own blog, I commented recently on some of the ways retailers can better service the needs of omnichannel shoppers this holiday season and all-year round, in fact. At SIM Partners, we help businesses anticipate and respond to changes in location marketing brought about by shifts in consumer behavior such as the rise of the omnichannel shopper. Contact us to discuss how we can help you.

November 21, 2016

Create the Mobile Next Moment

By Jon Schepke

CMO by Adobe logo

In the United States, mobile advertising spending increased by 89 percent in the first half of 2016, according to a report from the Interactive Advertising Bureau and PwC published on November 1. But the increase of spending does not necessarily mean an improvement in the quality of mobile advertising. As I note in my recently published CMO.com column, industry panelists at the most recent Cannes Lions referred to mobile ads as a “disastrous” afterthought, noting that 60 percent of clicks on mobile banner ads occur by mistake. I believe businesses can make mobile advertising more impactful by creating content that creates compelling calls to action, or what I refer to as “next moments.” And by “content,” I don’t mean traditional ads.

A next moment is the action that occurs after someone finds your business through a search, both branded and nonbranded. Examples of both would include “burgers near me” (nonbranded) or “Best Buy near me” (branded). Businesses need to disseminate accurate location data where “near me” searches occur in order to be visible. But they need to create next moments to convert those searches to in-store visits. An example of a next moment is a restaurant serving up a mobile wallet offer when consumers conduct near me searches, or a retailer sharing a mobile gaming app playable in-stores on Black Friday, as Macy’s has done.

By creating contextual next moments, brick-and-mortar businesses will make mobile advertising more effective for their brands and rewarding for consumers. Read my CMO.com column, “Think Next Moments, Not Mobile Ads,” for more insight. Contact us to discuss how SIM Partners can help you scale the benefits of location marketing.

 

November 16, 2016

Are You Ready for the On-Demand Holiday Season?

By Adam Dorfman

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This is the season of holiday shopping on demand. And both online and offline retailers are more prepared than ever, thanks to the impact of catalysts such as Amazon, Google, and Uber. How prepared are you?

The Digital Giants Speak

In recent months, we’ve seen online platforms ranging from Instagram to Pinterest launch functions such as buy buttons that make it easier to buy products during micro-moments of discovery, when consumers use their mobile phones to decide what to buy and where. Most recently, Facebook introduced new call-to-action buttons, including order food, request an appointment, and get a quote — allowing users to take action faster after they’ve found where they want to go or do.  

Pinterest indicates that since the app launched a product discovery and shopping functionality, 55 percent of Pinterest users have used Pinterest for this purpose. Finding and shopping for products is the second most popular activity on Pinterest. Meanwhile, Amazon continues to modify its Echo device that shoppers can use to buy products and have them delivered to their homes via voice commands. The Echo Dot, which was released October 20 (just in time for holiday shopping), is a more affordable version of Echo that uses intelligent assistant Alexa to help consumers do everything from control their home devices to use on-demand services. Not to be outdone, on November 4, Google released its highly anticipated Echo competitor, Google Home, which offers the ability to have a more contextual, intelligent conversation (e.g., “Where’s the closest place I can see Rogue One and buy Star Wars LEGO watches, too?”).

And those examples constitute the tip of the iceberg.

Brick-and-Mortar Businesses Have Their Say

Smart brick-and-mortar merchants and their partners are taking matters into their own hands by launching their own on-demand services. To wit:

  • Cole Haan and Nordstrom are among the name-brand businesses partnering with UberRUSH to offer same-day delivery of products directly to consumers’ doorsteps.
  • Earlier in 2016, Walmart announced the launch of an in-house on-demand service that relies on ride-sharing companies such as Lyft and Uber to make it possible for customers to place orders online, designate a delivery window, and have their orders fulfilled and delivered.
  • In August, SIM Partners rolled out an API that our clients can use to add a “Ride There with Uber” button to their location pages. The Ride There with Uber button makes it easier for shoppers to get to an offline destination, which is especially useful if they find something on a location page that they want to buy, prefer to go to the store for pick-up and perhaps additional browsing, and need a ride ASAP.

As we have noted on our blog, brick-and-mortar retailers need to act now in order to make sure that shoppers are aware of any on-demand services they offer. For instance, retailers should optimize the content on their location pages to promote their services, whether they consist of gift wrapping, delivery, or in-store pick-up for online orders. When consumers use their mobile phones, Echo, or Google Home devices to do a nearby search for Zootopia stuffies, retailers’ location pages should tell them not only that they have them in stock but whether they can wrap and deliver the toys. Retailers should also complement their organic content by investing in paid advertising, such as paid search, to promote their services.

If you lack on-demand services for your offline locations, consider acting with a partner such as SIM Partners that can help you scale quickly with functionality such as a Ride There with Uber button. If you already offer such services, make sure shoppers know about them as the holiday season approaches. Contact us — we’d love to discuss how we can help you.

October 17, 2016

Why Brands Need to Understand Prompted Search

By Gib Olander

business man clicking internet search page on computer touch screen

How many times have you heard about a product through an advertisement, pulled out your mobile phone, and searched for a store that carries it? I call this phenomenon prompted search. Businesses need to understand this consumer behavior to maximize the value of their top-of-the-funnel brand building activities.

Prompted searches are triggered by two types of events: one that a business creates itself, such as a product launch, or an external event that a business capitalizes on to build awareness, such as the World Series. For instance, a restaurant chain might offer drink specials to its Chicago-area customers while the Chicago Cubs are playing in the Major League Baseball playoffs. The restaurant needs to remember that patrons hearing about the promotion will naturally go online to search for the address and hours of their nearest location. The restaurant’s location data had better be up to date, including both the fundamental name, address, and phone data as well as attributes such as whether the location offers free parking.

In my new Street Fight column, I discuss prompted search in more detail. Please check it out, and contact us to discuss how SIM Partners can improve your location marketing efforts.

October 13, 2016

Update Your Store Hours Now for the 2016 Holiday Shopping Season

By Adam Dorfman

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It’s shaping up to be a cheerful holiday season. The National Retail Federation (NRF) predicts that holiday sales will increase 3.6 percent, which is higher than the 10-year average of 2.5 percent. The International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) predicts a 3.3 percent sales boost for brick-and-mortar stores. Retailers are expected to higher between 640,000 and 690,000 seasonal workers as they gear up for the spike in sales, according to the NRF. Preparing for the holiday season also means managing your seasonal content and location data so that consumers know where to find you, especially when they use their mobile phones to do a “near me” search for stores that are keeping holiday hours to accommodate their shopping needs. You can start now by scheduling an update to your store hours.

As the ICSC points out, 85 percent of consumers will search online before making an in-store purchase. According to the e-tailing group, the Number One way U.S. digital shoppers use their smartphones while holiday shopping is to look up store information such as hours and location. So you need to make it easier for consumers to find you when they do online research for what to buy and where to buy. Here are some steps you should be taking now to prepare:

 

  • Update your store hours. Schedule an update to your store hours on all the location pages for your brick-and-mortar stores. Shoppers expect retailers to offer expanded hours of operation during the holidays, but those hours vary from store to store — and region to region if you operate hundreds and thousands of stores. Moreover, holiday hours can change as a specific holiday approaches, and special dates, such as Black Friday and Christmas Eve, might have unique hours that need to be managed. As we have discussed on our blog, Google makes it possible for businesses to use Google My Business to pre-schedule specific hours for holidays and events — a boon for anyone who manages brick-and-mortar operations. But updating store hours is more challenging for businesses that manage hundreds and thousands of locations. If you are one of those businesses, act now. Create a listing management plan that identifies how, when, and who will ensure that store hours are up to date. If you work with an outside partner (such as SIM Partners) to manage your location data, work together now to update your hours.
  • Check your location data health. Updating your store hours won’t help you if you publish incorrect information about your address, which happens more often than you might expect. Do a gut check to make sure you are getting the basics right. Do all your location pages publish accurate name, address, and phone (NAP) data? Is your location information accurately listed on all the places where shoppers conduct near-me searches, such as Apple Maps, Google Maps, and Foursquare? Location data health requires monthly check-ups because business conditions change constantly. Stores get opened and closed, for instance.

 

  • Get ready for the on-demand shopper. Make sure that shoppers are aware of any services you provide that make it easier for shoppers to get to your store — and for you to get products to them. In our on-demand economy, shoppers expect retailers to be more responsive than ever. The rise of services such as UberRUSH simplifies the process of delivering products from brick-and-mortar. If you offer any special services that make it easier to get holiday goodies into the hands of consumers, make sure you advertise those services clearly and prominently on your location pages as well as through paid advertising. For instance, SIM Partners clients can add a “Ride There with Uber” button to their location pages thanks to an API we rolled out in August. Get your content updated now to show that you can meet the needs of on-demand consumers
  • Optimize your site content for mobile voice search. Increasingly, shoppers are relying on voice-activated searches to find what they need, especially while they are on the go. As Entrepreneur Derek Iwasiuk wrote recently, voice search requires businesses to optimize their content differently to be found. “Instead of focusing on short keyword searches, voice search makes it vital to consider longer questions,” he wrote. “Marketers need to find out how phone users are phrasing their queries and base their SEO campaigns around these questions.” You should ask what kind of voice queries your customers are going to make this holiday season (e.g., “Where can I find Sky Viper Streaming Drones on sale nearby?”) and make sure that you have optimized the content on your location pages to answer those questions.

 

A one-two punch that optimizes data and content will ensure that shoppers take two critical actions:

  • Shoppers will find you because your data is accurate.
  • Shoppers will buy from you because your contextual content convinces them to make a purchase.

Getting ready for the holiday season all starts with managing data such as your store hours. Are you ready? Contact us to discuss how we can help.