Google has needed a better way to zero in on local search, local consumers, and local resources for several years now. But who would have thought it would be found in an email list of coupon loving customers? Enter Groupon. The less-than-two-year-old start up that uses local search and email to quickly offer over 25 million members in 30 countries convenient, local solutions to their needs and wants.
You know, Groupon, the Chicago based company that went from zero to 1/2 billion in revenue within two years? Groupon, the company Google won't confirm, but is most likely buying for a mere 2.5 billion dollars? Oh them. The email coupon company.
Email coupon company or not, Groupon has made a a loud boom in the world of online marketing. Loud enough for the likes of Google to pay attention to with their big fat wallet. Especially because small and medium businesses are expected to spend 10% less on Google's c
ore paid search in the next five years, according to Borrell Associates. In fact, email marketing is projected to double by 2015 while paid local-search spending is expected to plummet. Last month, Google even moved star exec Marissa Mayer to the helm of local services from search products. For those of us who understand the inner workings of Google, that's a major event.
“Google has known for years that local is the major untapped area for online advertising,” said David Hallerman, eMarketer principal analyst. Today's online consumers are searching for their local online nesting areas, e-communities and virtual neighborhood hangouts. And, no surprise, Google wants to offer the small town solution in cyber space that can bring them additional local revenue.
But don't forget, the online world of marketing success is all about data. Data beyond email addresses. Data that says “Sue likes this, and hates that. Sue shops in the mornings and loves dogs, and buys coupons for Thai Bistros, and supports local non-profits for blind children.” For Google to have Groupon as part of the company would mean having ten times more local data like this at their fingertips. And he who has more of this data wins. So 2.5 billion dollars may be a bargain. Unreal, huh?
New Super-Cyber shopping tools are popping up everywhere in this year's holiday advertising communications. Considering the increase in buying online and via mobile phones, this should be no surprise. (In fact, a Bloomberg report estimates 40% of all holiday purchases this year will occur in the cloud) But these new ways to shop are only just beginning. Here are just a few of the latest convenient and fun techie tools being offered to shoppers this holiday season.
Digital gift cards on Facebook
Facebook is taking online presents to the next level with digital gift cards that make online print and cut coupons seem old fashioned. Now you can record a voice message with a digital gift card, and send it to the recipient via mobile phone, email or even a Facebook post. Check out Applebees Facebook Page where they're offering digital holiday cards you can customize with your recipient's personal Facebook features.
QR Codes in Catalogs
Have you seen this year's Target holiday catalog? You'll find QR Codes resolving into videos showing special features – even special reduced prices – for hundreds of items. They've already experienced huge success with a QR code that loads a mobile shopping site specifically fo
r Target's Holiday Toy Sale catalog. You can easily buy the items, and get the discounts right from your phone. All the information in the catalog's bar codes can also be accessed via text message. You text a code to Target, and they text you the link. Over the top? Nope. And just wait until next year.
Mobile App Gift Wish Lists
OK, a bit creepy, but kids have already moved from regular mail to email in their letter writing to Santa. This year they can upload it via one of several mobile phone apps, so mom and dad can use it to order gifts directly from their phones. Or to get coupons text for the items on little Johnny's Christmas list.
This hyper-local marketing strategy allows retailers to track the location of customers through signals sent from their mobile phones. Shoppers who opt in receive a mobile text message as they get near a store location or other relevant point of interest. Messages can be tailored to a different time of day and area. This “moment in time” communication shows promise of strengthening relationships with customers through relevance. Starbucks is an obvious user of this. But companies like The North Face are taking it to new customer service levels by sending customers branded text messages about weather conditions when they get to hiking trails.
What sounds unusual and a bit intimidating this year will most likely be the norm (if not outdated) this time next year. But, as long as marketers strive to offer consumers great value, convenience and enjoyable experiences, cyber shopping tools like these will continue to grow and exceed most of our expectations. That's refreshing.
Marketers are often afraid word-of-mouse will hurt more than help because it appears consumers take more time complaining than complementing in online reviews. But do businesses really need to fear these negative voices taking over their brand image? We say no. Not if the marketer commits to being actively engaged.
We don't mean hiring one of the current snake oil reputation management firms that promises to have negative reviews removed, while posting an untrustworthy number of fabricated positive comments. Studies show customers see through these even faster than Google and Yelp's supposedly legitimate algorithms. By actively engaged we mean offering a variety of different places for customers to form an opinion of your brand. Certainly Facebook and Twitter are two obvious sources, but there are plenty of other powerhouses. For example, what about making a name for your company as an
How about not only having a blog, but sharing it's content via Digg, Stumble Upon, and Reddit? And don't forget about YouTube. As the online world over saturates us with written content, people will defer more and more to video for everything from shopping decisions to consumer opinion. What about telling your brand story in pictures? There's almost always a way, so use photo sharing sites like Flickr and Picasa.
And yet, just being on all these sites is not enough. Updating new and interesting content at least twice a week is a must – everywhere. But even more important than staying active is being creative and interesting. If you give customers other online opportunities to get to know you, you'd better give them good reason why they should prefer you.
Sounds like a lot of work, huh? It is. But just having a website, a Facebook page, and a Twitter account is not enough these days. You need to create two-way conversations everywhere you can. That way, even if some negative reviews pop up, customers have a variety of other venues to learn more about you and what you sell. Venues that can tell a great story – the story you want them to know.
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