There’s some interesting stuff going on in the world of small business web marketing, particularly with regard to restaurants that has huge impact on local search. Check this out:
- First, Google relaunched Zagats, featuring “…news and video content from local editors, as well as curated lists, improved search and map-based browsing. You will also be able to make reservations through Open Table and read menus before you arrive at the restaurant.”
- Then, Google picked up restaurant website builder and booking platform Appetas, then promptly shut them down, stating they’re “…working with our customers to transition their websites over to alternative platforms.”
- TripAdvisor snapped up LaFourchette, essentially to do the same thing.
- Now, Square has launched Orders, a new app for ordering ahead from restaurants, while Yelp unveiled its new “Reservations” feature, providing a free reservations platform to those who claim their Yelp profile page.
Now, some folks suggest this is all about Google competing with Yelp. And I suspect that’s true.
But I also suspect that’s only part of the story.
For one thing, that doesn’t take into account what other players offer at all. Square’s Order app (only available in New York and San Francisco, at the moment), TripAdvisor (though only in France, I believe), and OpenTable, for instance, provide similar functionality and, more importantly, valuable relationships with restauranteurs.
On top of that, most of the write-ups I’ve seen about these acquisitions fail to note that, according to Yodle, “…more than half of SMB owners do not have a website (52%) or even measure the results of their marketing programs (56%).”
Instead, here’s what I think is happening — and why you should care.
I suspect the real reason for these moves is the current shift among consumers towards app usage. Google has relied on search to fill its coffers for years. And as consumers instead use apps to find, research, browse, and buy from local vendors they know and trust — and all evidence suggests they do — Google could easily find itself on the outside looking in. Square, by offering low-cost credit card readers to many small businesses, has gotten a toe-hold with those businesses directly. And they’re starting to use that toe-hold as a stepping stone (if I can mix metaphors), to drive customers to those businesses.
Just like a search engine would.
OpenTable already does the same thing. So does Yelp. And TripAdvisor.
All these tools rely on content from their small business partners. Content that used to be the domain of search engines and, increasingly, appear as the domain of apps.
What all this reflects is the reality that consumers don’t search on the desktop the way they once did (this is the part you should care about). Mobile is changing customer behavior in seriously meaningful ways.
Google sees it. Square sees it. TripAdvisor and Yelp and Foursquare and Facebook and plenty of others see it too. The question is whether you’re doing everything you can to ensure your business benefits, too.[Note: Updated to include reference to TripAdvisor's purchase of LaFourchette (which I left out originally) and Yelp's launch of Yelp Reservations, which, literally happened about 12 hours after I first hit publish. Again, interesting times, well worth watching.]
If you’re interested in learning even more about the future of e-commerce and marketing via the social, local, mobile web, you might want to register to receive a special report I’ve produced in conjunction with hotel marketing firm Vizergy, “Digital Hotel Marketing in a Multiscreen World.” While it’s targeted specifically at hotel and resort marketers, the lessons apply to just about any business. You can get your free copy of the report here.
You may also want to review the tips in my recent presentation Digital Marketing Directions: Three Trends Shaping 2014 Hospitality Internet Marketing:
(And, yes… you can hire me to keynote your next event, too).
Finally, if you’re interested in learning even more about the future of e-commerce and marketing via the social, local, mobile web, register to receive a special report I’ve produced in conjunction with hotel marketing firm Vizergy, “Digital Hotel Marketing in a Multiscreen World.” While it’s targeted specifically at hotel and resort marketers, the lessons apply to just about any business. You can get your free copy of the report here.
You might also enjoy some of our past coverage of the social, local, mobile web and what it means for your business, including:
- What Your Customers Expect from Mobile and E-commerce in 2014.
- The Secrets Behind “It’s All E-commerce” for 2014
- Should Marketers Really Trust Google in 2014?
- The Zen of Digital Marketing Strategy
- 7 Steps to E-Commerce Heaven
- Today and Tomorrow: Mobile and The Changing Customer Journey
- Mobile Makes E-commerce Even More “Frictionless”
- Your 2014 Internet Marketing New Year’s Resolutions – Thinks Out Loud Episode 56