Google Opens Up Direct-To-Search And Map Posts To Local Businesses

Google My Business clients have a new discovery tool that will let their announcements, promotions, events, and other news be found directly in query results and on their Google Maps listings.

Dubbed Google Post, the feature was first offered to select major brands, celebrities, and to the presidential candidates who wanted an easy way of getting the word out about location-based news they had, such as special appearances and events.

The Posts will appear within Google business listings. Customers only have to “tap” the Post box to read the full item. Users can also share the Posts to friends via email or social channels.

“With 82 percent of people turning to search engines to find local information, your Google listing is the ideal place to showcase what is unique about your business,” writes Rosa Wu, product manager Google My Business, in a blog post. “Even when customers know exactly what they’re looking for, they still want to get to know the business and see what it has to offer. That’s why Google My Business is bringing Posts to local businesses — an easy way to help attract new customers and build relationships with the customers you already have.”

The latest tool in Google My Business follows the recently added ability for restaurants to publish their entire, detailed menus within their search results across Google could change the way eateries are ultimately discovered by patrons interested in specific meals.

Like the direct-to-search and maps feature for menus, Posts takes the friction out of having to leave Google Maps, wait for an outside menu site to load, and then have to return to the main app for directions and other details such as reviews, directions, and hours.

It all stems from Google’s determination to offer users a complete walled garden where they don’t have to lose the ease of staying in its search app functions, whether it’s to hail a car or book a fitness appointment.

The key difference with Posts is that it allows for the easy distribution and discovery of time-sensitive news that a local business wants new and existing customers to know.

Among the ideas that Google suggests local businesses might use Posts for:

  • Share daily specials or current promotions that encourage new and existing customers to take advantage of your offers.
  • Promote events and tell customers about upcoming happenings at your location.
  • Showcase your top products and highlight new arrivals.

From there, businesses can choose the ways consumers can take an action from a Post. For example, they can connect with customers directly from their Google listing by giving them a “one-click path” to make a reservation, sign up for a newsletter, learn more about latest offers, or even make a purchase directly online.

“Seventy percent of people look at multiple businesses before making a final choice,” Wu says. “With Posts, you can share timely, relevant updates right on Google Search and Maps to help your business stand out to potential customers. And by including custom calls-to-action directly on your business listing, you can choose how to connect with your customers.”

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Wisconsin Startup Points The Way For Grocers To Challenge Amazon/Whole Foods Onslaught

Even before the looming prospect of a combined Amazon and Whole Foods upending the grocery space, supermarket independents and chains alike appeared to be ready to meet consumers’ desire for crafting seamless online/offline shopping experiences.

As eMarketer has noted in its look at e-commerce grocery shopping, the number of consumers who purchase groceries digitally will rise significantly this year. Citing research from retail marketing and analytics software company Unata and consultancy Brick Meets Click, close to one-third (31 percent) of U.S. internet users said they were “very likely” or “somewhat likely” to buy groceries online in 2017—up from 19 percent in 2016.

While much of the focus on the broader on-demand delivery space has tended to revolve around what is happening in major cities like New York and San Francisco, GrocerKey has been ramping up its work with grocers in its native Wisconsin for the past two years.

With online grocery sales expected leap 355 percent to $123 billion by 2023 from  $27 billion in the U.S. in 2014, according to Brick Meets Click, it’s clear that the marketplace won’t belong to one player. And that’s what GrocerKey is planning for,

In essence, GrocerKey is a white label solution for grocers that want to create their own e-commerce shopping platform and operate it under their own brand name, as opposed to relying on a third party like Instacart or Postmates.

GrocerKey’s main client — and lead investor — is Janesville, WI-based Woodman’s Market, which runs 18 stores across the state and in northern Illinois.

The Madison, WI-based startup’s grocery focus goes back almost 10 years, notes CEO and founder Jeremy Neren.

“I ran an online on-demand grocery delivery service in Madison, WI for close to a decade. That led up to starting GrocerKey. We warehoused the product ourselves for over 8 years. I had a strong desire to expand that business, and in an effort to make the business more scalable, I shifted the operation from a warehouse model to operating out of a local grocery store and leveraging their inventory. That local grocery store happened to have their own e-commerce platform powered by the market leader in white label e-commerce grocery technology.”

Duly inspired, Neren and his team pivoted into starting GrocerKey and began pitching local grocery retailers.

“In early 2015, we were able to partner with Woodman’s Markets, the largest grocery chain in Wisconsin,” Neren said. “They not only contracted with us to use our technology, but licensed us to help them physically build the business on their behalf. Woodman’s also invested about $2.1 million in GrocerKey and they are our lead investor.”

In addition to Woodman’s, GrocerKey has recently signed up three other supermarkets on top of its 11 existing retail partners — Neren won’t disclose the names just yet. The company, which has over 100 employees, is planning to build out functions that will allow for its supermarket clients’ customers to blend online and in-store shopping.

GeoMarketing: On-demand delivery is generally viewed as concentrated in upscale, tech-centric, large cities. How would you describe the demand in Wisconsin and the Midwest for grocery delivery?

Jeremy Neren: No doubt about it – there is larger consumer demand for e-commerce grocery in other parts of the country. That said, the demand is increasing everywhere in all markets. We did 5,000 orders with an average $150 basket-size last month out of a half-dozen stores on ShopWoodmans.com and a small marketing budget. It’s all growing organically.

Every market has its own unique pull. In Madison and Milwaukee, you tend to have some awful weather for a substantial part of the year. That’s a natural driver of this business – people don’t want to go outside in zero-degree weather anywhere.

So we try to tailor services to the individual markets we’re in and see what makes sense for that individual retailer. This is definitely not a cookie-cutter approach.

What are the pain points GrocerKey solves for the markets you work with?

The biggest pain points we’re trying to solve for grocers in e-commerce is that their stores are designed for the brick-and-mortar environment, not e-commerce fulfillment. Right now, there’s a surplus of brick-and-mortar stores in the U.S. So retailers are motivated to get into e-commerce, for one, to leverage those existing stores. They don’t want to spend even more money to build a warehouse to develop a separate e-commerce business.

So the question is, “How do we take an inherently inefficient environment and create an efficient business on top of it?”

In many cases, retailers don’t often have great intel on exactly where products are in their store. So we create a “pick-path” in their store — then, when you’re assembling an e-commerce order, you’re using the most efficient path possible to shop for whoever is taking that e-commerce order. That allows the store to reduce labor costs and then ultimately provide a better value for the customer.

What are the issues GrocerKey solves for consumers?

The biggest challenge is out-of-stocks. As a consumer, if you don’t see the item you want on the shelf, you move on and grab another similar item. If you buy an item online and when it’s delivered, it’s not there, that’s a miserable experience.

How do you solve for that? We let the consumer choose a backup item in case their first choice isn’t available and we provide suitable backup options for staff that assemble online orders.

How do you help the markets you work with spur interest and usage of on-demand grocery delivery?

We are doing more work with third-party platforms to create adoption. We’re utilizing the strength of the retailer’s brand and providing them with a number of robust marketing tools that are built into our platform.

The role of Connected Intelligence and voice-activated search and ordering through Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri, Okay Google, and others is becoming mainstream. What impact will that have on the way people shop for groceries?

We’re bullish on the idea of voice-activation. E-commerce is all about convenience and removing friction when it comes to the shopping experience. Voice-activation and artificial intelligence advances that idea of convenience. It’s going to be an integral piece of e-commerce and shopping going forward. It’s already having an impact, as people are ordering groceries on Amazon now.

What do you think the Amazon/Whole Foods deal means for established grocers?

The Amazon deal demonstrates the need for grocery retailers to move faster in their digital efforts. There was already pressure to do so, given the rise in consumer demand and pressure being put on those stores by Amazon. So that pressure will only increase with Amazon having a nationwide brick-and-mortar presence to add to its arsenal of digital tools to reach consumers and bring them into their overall ecosystem.

It requires an entirely different operational approach than what Amazon is accustomed to, in terms of translating its e-commerce approach to serve customers in-store.

It’s also important to consider that strengthening your digital presence does not simply mean e-commerce, it means providing more touch points to reach consumers — e-commerce is a component of that, but you must also consider how to augment the in-store experience via digital touch points such as value added native mobile apps.

What’s next for GroceryKey?

We’re in the process of launching several retailers. And we’re trying to encompass more in-store shopping tools, so we’re becoming more of an omnichannel platform as opposed to a strictly e-commerce company. You can build your shopping list and give them the same item availability and pick-path information that we give to e-commerce shoppers. Eventually, that functionality will lead to mobile self-checkout within the store.

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How Marketers Can Integrate OOH, Social To Create Context — At Scale

It’s long been the marketer’s “holy grail” to get the right message to the right consumer at the right time — but actually delivering that personalized engagement at scale is a bigger challenge.

In a panel discussion at at Cannes Lions dedicated to bridging digital and real-world experiences, execs from Kinetic, Maxus Global, and Clear Channel talked with GeoMarketing‘s Lauryn Chamberlain about using OOH to drive location-specific context and then social media to amplify that message — plus, what’s going on with the future of smart cities. An excerpted version of the conversation, below.

Let’s start with some examples: How have you worked to bridge the online and offline worlds through integrating mobile, social, and out-of-home in your respective work? What have you seen people really engage with? And on the flip side, what hasn’t worked so well — what can we work on as an industry? 

Richard Stokes, Worldwide Chief Development Officer, Maxus Global: I’ll talk about a very specific example: a campaign for the Dutch Kidney Foundation. Obviously, that’s not somewhere where you’re trying to sell something, but charities are under a lot of pressure from a fundraising point of view and from an awareness point of view — they [needed to] get the message out.

What they did was to take a story about a single patient, Fabian, who was on dialysis. What happens when you’re on dialysis? You’re superman to your kids, you’re a sportsman, you’re a businessman — but your world shrinks, and your world becomes the bedroom because you have to spend most of the day in dialysis.

What we did is to take the fact that here’s Fabian in his tiny bedroom — and then ask, ‘where can we broadcast this to that is the exact opposite?’ The exact opposite was a central station [in the Netherlands], a very busy transport hub. A single digital panel [incorporating social] allowed Fabian to communicate, and interact, and speak to people who stopped in front of him. Kind of take the world into his tiny little bedroom in that way.

The interaction that they had was fantastic, but it didn’t stop there. In a way, what was interesting for me, was to see how out-of-home gave this campaign the physical context, and social gave it scale. Everything was captured [for] Fabian, and the perspective then went out on Facebook, on his page. The campaign was a huge success, and their subsequent donations have been huge. I think that’s a great example of how mobile, social, and out-of-home can work together [to do more] than people might expect.

Mauricio Sabogal, Global CEO, Kinetic: What is interesting is, who are some of the biggest advertisers in out of home? Apple, Google, Facebook, Amazon. It might seem kind of weird, because their media assets such that, well, why are they advertising out-of-home? That’s a good question, and the answer is, because they need to be direct, and really they’re getting [incredibly useful] traffic data through interactive [OOH.] They see something in the everyday, they collect it, they analyze it.

But it’s not just about connecting; it is about connecting the strategy at the right moment, to the right company, to the right communication, and to continue to go from there. Once you’ve done that, the question is how to amplify [the message]. [That’s] a good way that social media platforms come into play.

What are the challenges of trying to deliver that contextually relevant message, at the right time, via out-of-home? What have you learned?

Stefan Lameire, Chief Customer & Revenue Officer, Clear Channel International: As Mauricio said, the challenge of technology is that a lot of things are possible — and it’s not just about [connected technology just for its own sake.] I really never forget that what we do with technology should be consumer relevant.

The consumers are driving a different effect, and here’s something we learned: We were putting [a touchpoint] on the side of our panels, where people could actually interact through their smartphones, using NFC, QR, whatever.

The idea behind doing that is really strong, I think, and we indeed had thousand of companies across the globe doing it. But we ran into the issue that the process of downloading coupon, or being told to ‘do this, do that,’ was not consumer relevant. The consumer felt this was advertising; it was not a genuine choice to interact with the brand. [We had to] rethink what kind of information people would actually want — and when. Like, in the UK, there’s a great example of [interacting at taxi stands] to give people information about drivers or about the city.

My two main takeaways would be: Whatever you do with technology, make it consumer relevant — and try to make it at scale so that it’ll use the value of the reach that algorithms have to offer.

Stefan, you mentioned the taxi example in the UK. In many ways, the rise of OOH that is interactive in real-time is driving the development of smart cities. How can you deliver that consumer relevance in smart cities? And what kind of opportunities do they open up for marketers?

Mauricio: We’re [seeing that] evolution now; we’ll be having not just wifi, but internet of things, and many other technologies available to activate in cities.

We see many aspects in cities that can be connected, and you will see thousands of facets of this. The most important part of this, for marketers to think about, is how to demonstrate efficiency and how to demonstrate the right alignment.

Stefan: If you look at this as a media owner, I think, we are restoring assets by delivering services. In the last two years, we’ve [invested in] smart bikes, and wifi, and our company really invested a couple hundred million dollars. We are trying to drive this [evolution], to actually grasp how to support and develop [smart cities].

Some of the important solutions, and the really exciting things start to come in when you are starting to apply wifi, or whatever technology is, and not just in terms of delivering service. A lot of the potential [for marketers] comes from the real-time data that will be there. There are a lot more opportunities around collecting user data. It’s very interesting to see how that will evolve.

Richard: There’s also this opportunity as we look to the future of self-driving cars: You think about the two, three hours that someone has in their car [commuting] every day, that becomes an opportunity — a very valuable one. There’s a value exchange: Maybe I don’t have to actually pay for this car ride, when I’m getting to work, because I’m exposed to X amount of messages, and that’s a very context rich and mass reach environment. I think we can see that quite soon.

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Acquisition Of Zenly, Launch Of Snap Map Highlight Snapchat’s Real-World, Real-Time Influence

Snap, the parent company of social messaging app Snapchat, has been adding a variety of location tech tools at a rapid pace lately, and the debut of Snap Maps with the platform’s latest update is further demonstration of how its images and animations are intended to affect users’ activity in the physical world.

Launched the same week as its big appearance at Cannes Lions, where Snap’s branded yellow ferris wheel dominated the skyline in the seaside French town, Snap Map is being billed as a new map experience for its users.

In essence, Snap Map lets Snapchatters show and see what’s happening around their friends. As opposed to most social media uses of location, Snap Map is not about where you are and directions for how to get somewhere.

In addition, after suggesting certain similarities between Snap Map and French social location app, Zenly, Techcrunch broke the news that Snap acquired the company for between $250- and $350 million dollars in May, citing anonymous sources.

While Techcrunch contends that Snap Map is built directly on Zenly’s location sharing capabilities, the similarities actually appear to be merely skin deep.

Attribution is commonly required in map-based apps to indicate the technologies and geospatial data used in the application. The companies listed on the Snap Maps attribution page are all suppliers (directly or indirectly) to Snap Map. Typically a map platform puts together a number of different data sources, synthesizes them into the various map layers and then delivers them to the application. That indicates that Snap maps are built on Mapbox (as indicted in my previous article), not Zenly.

There is an obvious similarity between the two and Snap has acknowledged that they purchased Zenly several months ago. That similarity is may be due to Zenly having built on Mapbox as well…as are thousands of other customized map based applications.

Offline Activity Brought Selectively Online

The map itself is powered by a trio of location data visualization and geospatial tech providers: Mapbox, OpenStreetMaps, and satellite imagery vendor DigitalGlobe.

The activity on the map is seen through Snap “Actionmojis”– a new type of Bitmoji, which users can download separately to create a new avatar on Snapchat, the company said in its blog post announcement.

The idea essentially updates what other mobile apps from Swarm to France’s Zenly is to connect members of a social network together based on where they are and what they’re doing in the moment.

“In a lot of ways, we’re taking what a map is and turning it upside down,” Jack Brody, a product designer at Snap, told Refinery29’s Madeline Buxton. “This map isn’t about where am I, it’s about where are my friends and what are they up to? It’s not about figuring out how to get to your destination, but about discovering where you want to go.”

The nature of Snapchat, unlike say Facebook or Twitter, indicates a greater level of actual friendship in “real life” and its use of location reflects that level of intimacy: roughly 60 percent of the interactions on Snapchat are between close friends, according to a study called Circles of Influence from Sparkler, US data, commissioned by Snap.

To use and view Snap Map, app users simply pinch to zoom out from the Snapchat “camera.” The Snap Map is a new layer on top of the current Snapchat experience. The first time Snapchatters open Snapchat after updating their app, they’ll be taken through an explanation outlining how to find the Map and how it works.

Showing Snapchat’s Playful And Serious Sides

At the moment, there are no branded sponsorships available in Snap Map, the way they are through Snapchat’s Geofilters, which have been available to marketers for two years, starting with McDonald’s in Aug. 2015.

For Snap, The Map is another place for it showcase its users creativity in the app’s “Our Story” feature, which feature public posts. Users can also opt-out of wide sharing of their Map stories through the “Ghost Mode” privacy setting.

In general, Snaps are available to view on the Map for about 24 hours, though they may be found for a longer period through the app’s search.

A visual “Heat Map” within the feature can be used to point other users to a special event or breaking news at a particular place and are sorted through Snap’s algorithm.

Thumbnails will also help Snapchatters distinguish points of interest where a lot of Snaps are regularly being taken and submitted regularly, like Times Square or a major attraction, as well as those events that the Snap team has more of a hand in curating.

The addition of Snap Map comes a week after the company struck a partnership with geo-data specialist Factual’s Global Places data, which contains real-time info on more than 100 million places across 52 countries. Days before that deal, Snap acquired attribution platform Placed. That purchase came after months of assembling location data and digital presence knowledge from partners such as Foursquare and Yext (full disclosure: Yext is GeoMarketing’s parent company. More details on that relationship here).

Last August, Snap acquired mobile search and local recommendation app Vurb for a reported $110+ million to help promote discovery of local places.

Snap Map Making — And Breaking — News

While Snap tends to take things a bit more cautiously when it comes to marketing, the company has been trying to demonstrate how it, like Facebook/Instagram and Twitter, can serve as an additional distribution channel for news sites and publications. Given the inherently local quality of news, the use of Snap Map could be used to enhance Snapchat’s appeal to publishers.

As Brody tells Refinery29, Snap wants to prove it has a serious side as well as a playful side.  For example, Brody points to the first test of its mapping capabilities during construction site’s crane accident in Feb. 2016. Snapchat users began sharing details of the incident through the Our Stories view.

Brody’s summary of Snapchat’s role in spreading information is particularly telling for traditional news organizations still trying to catch up to the speed f social media: “That was this moment of ‘we have something here,’” Brody says. “We had newsworthy content 10 minutes before the first news company actually arrived.”

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Pinterest Adds Measurement Partners To Promote Proof Of Brick-And-Mortar Sales Lift

As challenges mount against Pinterest’s dominance on image search for brands, the photo sharing platform has signed up six major measurement providers to help deliver a message to marketers: “Pinners” are heavy shoppers across retail, consumer packaged goods, and other categories typically associated with brick-and-mortar purchases.

Pinterest advertisers can now tap brand lift measurement and related insights from Acxiom, Analytic Partners, IRI, Neustar MarketShare, Nielsen Catalina Solutions, and Nielsen Digital Ad Ratings. These new partners join eight existing measurement partners in Pinterest’s Marketing Partners program.

“People associate Pinterest with taking action,” writes Gunnard Johnson, head of Measurement Science and Insights at Pinterest, in a blog post. “98 percent of Pinners report trying new things they find on Pinterest, compared to an average of only 71 percent across social media platforms. Before they even open the app, they intend to act—and then Pinterest guides them to a confident decision.”

Source: Pinterest

Among the kinds of information Pinterest will be promoting to show off its store traffic and sales lift prowess include this insight from Oracle Data Cloud, which found that people who use Pinterest shop and spend more than the general public.

Looking across a mix of categories, including retail, CPG and automotive, Oracle reported that Pinners are 39 percent more likely to be active retail shoppers—and when they shop, they spend 29 percent more than people who don’t use Pinterest.

“Overall, our average CPG sales lift increased 82 percent in 2016, over 2015 rates,” Johnson wrote. “The Oracle Data Cloud analysis showed that 92 percent of Pinterest CPG campaigns measured drove a positive lift in sales.”

Pinterest has been rolling out a number of features designed to keep pace the aggressive pace of social media marketing tools from Facebook, Snapchat, and Twitter. In February, it rolled out  a new search function that aims to match discovery to images, not words.

Dubbed Pinterest Lens, “it lets you use the camera in your Pinterest app to discover ideas inspired by objects you see out in the real world,” the company said at the time.

Part of Pinterest’s pitch is that brands “see more than sales lifts—they see strong campaign ROI, too,” Johnson says.

When Analytic Partners studied Pinterest campaigns in the context of total marketing spend, Pinterest delivered $2 in profit for every $1 the advertiser spent on Pinterest.

“That outperformed all other categories, including digital as a whole, TV, and channels like print or out of home,’ Johnson says.

Despite the wider measurement coverage, Pinterest still lacks a dedicated location-based attribution solution that directly links seeing a Pin to store traffic and sales. But as the attribution wars heat up, it’s likely that Pinterest will be adding one sooner than later.

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Over 50 Percent Of Millennials Are Using Voice Commands At Least Once A Month

Over 50 percent of Millennial (18-34) use voice commands once a month or more, according to research from Mindshare and J. Walter Thompson, and Google has stated that a full 20 percent of searches on Android in the United States are now conducted by voice — meaning that brands need to think about voice search and commerce not as a distant eventuality, but as tidal wave sweeping the industry today.

At this week’s Cannes Lions event, J. Walter Thompson’s Elizabeth Cherian,  UK director of The Innovation Group, talked to GeoMarketing about why voice is more intuitive than text or swipe — and how brands can stay discoverable in the world of intelligent assistants.

Voice has just recently reached to point of viability. Per the findings in JWT and Mindshare’s recent ‘Speak Easy’ voice report, what is the state of voice and AI today? What do brands need to know?

Ultimately, there have been so many changes in artificial intelligence, and voice technology essentially fits under artificial intelligence. In particular, there is voice recognition; that’s when the computer takes in what you’re saying and turns it into text to one degree or another of accuracy. Right? Then there is natural language processing. Which is much more complicated, because that’s understanding intent — and there is more work to be done there, [but] we’re getting there.

Nonetheless, what’s incredible about voice recognition it is currently on par with human voice recognition. So, if you were writing down what I’m saying, you, on average, should have about 95 percent accuracy. That is exactly where [voice] AI is today. We’ve gotten there, and we’re quickly going to surpass that, and we’re going to be looking at something like 99 percent accuracy – which is all the difference in the world; that’s the difference between hardly ever using it and using it all the time.

So, what’s [important to know] is that this is happening now — and it’s going to be picking up even more quickly. In our report, we are already seeing, amongst our global respondents, that 37 percent of smartphone users are using [voice search or voice commands] at least once a month.

That’s a really healthy number, especially considering that in the UK, Alexa didn’t even hit our shores until the fall — so as a category, it is brand spanking new, and yet already we’re seeing [more than a third using it]. And [intelligent] voice assistants in particular are coming fast and furiously: It’s projected that there are going to be more on the planet than humans by 2021.

In your keynote at Cannes, you identify three of the major trends in consumers’ desires related to voice-activated connected devices. What are they? What are people looking for?

In [the report] we identify nine, but there are three of the nine that we’re really focusing on [talking about] today. People want voice assistants to: ease their cognitive load, help them as a ‘digital butler,’ and to create intimacy.

For the ‘digital butler,’ that just means that they want a useful service. Not just voice for voice sake — they want it to solve problems and they want it to be proactive. The more that technology gets smarter and is more effective, the more that productivity is going to be an expectation.

With easing the cognitive load, what we found is that a major reason for taking on voice technologies is how efficient it makes [users] feel; they talk about how more efficiently they can manage their daily lives. And this makes sense: We’re humans; we’re built to exchange information orally.

Swipe and text, on the other hand, are not intuitive. Actually, we thought, wouldn’t it be cool to test what’s happening in the brain when we’re using voice as apposed to text or swipe. Is it indeed easier, and could we prove this from a physiological point of view? We teamed up a company called Neuro Insight to hook 100 people up to devices called SST — they’re very much like EEG but more accurate and better measure of brain activity.

To sum up, when our respondents took in information by text [their brains] worked far harder than when they took information in by a voice. What the implications of that are is that humans follow the path of least resistance — it’s just in your nature. If you’re sitting there as a consumer and you have two ways of accessing information, ultimately, once you get used to it… you’re going to opt for voice over text because it’s easier.

So, are people actually transacting over their voice-activated devices? E.g. saying ‘Alexa, find me a sun dress’ and then purchasing it that way? Will we start to see more of that?

It’s slower, certainly. Especially through a device like Echo, right now, users are primarily listening to music, they’re asking questions. They might say, ‘send me an Uber to pick me up.’ Set an alarm.

But [the commerce element] is surely coming in terms of trying to get at what brands need to think about for the future. Really, right now, they need to think in terms of being discoverable.

53 percent of global smart phone users are excited by the prospect by their voice assistance anticipating their needs — making suggestions and even going so far as to take action, even buying something on their behalf. Like, if my [digital assistant] knows that Charmin is my favorite toilet paper brand and just orders it for me.

What works really well over voice is just one good answer. That’s scary for brands for the reason I just said: If someone loves Charmin, and the assistant knows that, how, as another brand do you get into that very loyal relationship just that keeps repeat purchasing your favorite toilet paper?

Right. How can brands approach this challenge?

What we are seeing is that there is a couple of options there. Firstly, could there be paid recommendation? Could you, as a brand, pay to have the voice assistant recommend your brand? Especially when there isn’t that bond already formed. It;s not the best option, it’s not maybe the cheapest option, but it is an option that theoretically a brand could pay to get to the top of the list.

But here’s what’s happening right now: Look at this idea of algorithm optimization. It’s like the new SEO; brands [need to get their] underlying data layer ready for consumption by these devices. The question is, how do you build into your product and services such as the voice assistance sees you as the best option? That’s something we think brands should be thinking about right now.

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YP Digital Presence Promises Businesses ‘Complete Location Information Control’

YP’s been on an aggressive product rollout the last few weeks, and its latest, ypPresence Plus, promises to tie them all together as businesses struggle to ensure they have the most up-to-date details about their locations across all digital channels.

The concept of Digital Presence Management refers to the process of overseeing and correcting all information about a business location across desktop, mobile, social media, interactive reviews, mapping/navigation platforms, store pages, directory listings, and anywhere else a consumer can encounter and seek knowledge about a brand’s place.

“A strong digital presence begins with a website and continues with a consistent, up-to-date business profile that consumers can access online and on mobile devices,” says Stu MacFarlane, EVP of Product and Marketing at YP.

“It can be time consuming and difficult for business owners to manage their information in all the places it appears,” MacFarlane adds. “ypPresence Plus gives business owners control over their listings, ensuring that consumers across the web have the information they need to feel confident about contacting the business.”

It’s About Local Discovery

YP is billing ypPresence Plus as the latest in a series of enhancements to YP’s portfolio of integrated solutions, including the recent launch of ypWebsite Pro, which is meant to help local companies create a central internet hub. With ypWebsite Pro, local businesses have the ability to earn top rankings in organic search results and get found on local directory sites.

The addition of ypPresence Plus is designed to ensure that as local places see their discoverability rise, consumers will be able to find real-time data about those business locations.

“Local business owners can lock in critical business information for each location so it can be showcased across more than 60 sites, including the ready-to-buy audience on yellowpages.com,” a YP representative tells GeoMarketing. This helps build credibility with search engines and ensure core information is accurate when a consumer is ready to make a purchase.

YP is working with Digital Presence Management specialist and Knowledge Engine Yext as a partner on ypPresence Plus. (Full disclosure: Yext is GeoMarketing’s parent company. More on that relationship here.)

“We’ve heard from clients that ypPresence Plus works, delivering accurate online information, which helps drive clicks, calls and customers,” the YP rep says. “In a study of more than 1,400 clients, ypPresence Plus delivered 98 percent accuracy across publishers for core content.”

One client,Jan Steinlage, marketing director of Kansas and Missouri based Saylor Insurance Service, says that “ypPresence Plus saves me time so that I can focus on other areas of marketing and growing our business. It gives me peace of mind knowing that our business now has a better online presence, which is something I did not have the time nor expertise for.”

The Costs Poor Digital Presence Management

For years, YP has explored the ways consumers zig-zag from device to device, platform to platform, online-to-offline when searching for products and services.  The fragmented customer journey makes it harder than ever for brands to be where local consumers are looking and to gauge success.

If a business has inconsistent or wrong information related to a location, the loss of that consumer’s spending isn’t just a one-time problem; it represents a basic loss of trust that another brand can capture and retain.

Considering that on average, business owners will see their information changed, without their consent, every six days on one of 60 leading sites consumers find a business on, it’s critical that business ownerstake control of their online data, YP notes.

Without actively managing it, vital business information, such as a business name, address and phone number, may be listed incorrectly on sites that consumers visit frequently.

Since consumers use multiple sources in their search for local businesses – everything from websites to search engines to review sites to social media – it is imperative that the data is accurate and consistent.

In terms of quantifying the problem, research by comScore conducted on behalf of YP found that YP users reference an average 5.6 sources of information. Consumers also say that they are much less likely to contact businesses that have inaccurate or incomplete information online.

While the rise of connected intelligence through voice-activated digital assistants like Siri and Alexa may soon call the idea of a brand’s website into question, brands need to ensure they have a handle on the details that define their outlets — and on their terms.

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General Motors’ Maven Gig Arrives In San Fran To Support On-Demand Economy

Maven Gig, the offshoot brand of General Motors’ multi-city shared-mobility, subscription-based project Maven, is moving into its second city to provide cars for independent freelancers who need wheels.

The first Maven Gig service was launched in May in San Diego. The primary Maven car rental service has been operating on-demand ride-sharing rentals in San Francisco since August 2016. More than 20 million miles have been driven under the Maven brand in San Francisco and nearly 1 million rides have been given.

In February, Atlanta became the 17th city to host GM’s experiment in car-sharing conjunction with Lyft Express Drive, the ride-hailing platform’s rental car business. Since then, Maven has expanded its presence in New York City and Baltimore.

As concepts from self-driving cars to connected cars, along with the expansion of ride-hailing programs from Uber and Lyft, become more mainstream, automakers like GM have been racing to explore new business models.

Maven Gig is available in San Francisco and San Diego. Drivers can sign up online.

Supporting The Gig Economy

The rise of on-demand services from ride-hailing to food delivery to even laundry and dry cleaning pick-up has made freelancing viable for many people seeking part-time work or trying to support themselves in between full-time jobs.

Naturally, the nature of work in the gig economy has also multiplied the challenges for independent contractors. For one thing, a car is a necessity not easily supported by the wages most delivery people make.

That’s where GM’s Maven Gig has stepped in. The Maven Gig has formal partnerships with food-delivery platforms like GrubHub, Instacart, as well as courier and shipping service Roadie, along with ride-hailing services Lyft and Uber.

The company is working on expanding its list of on-demand partners as it seeks to ramp up the program.

“By 2020, an estimated 43 percent of the U.S. workforce will be made up of freelance workers,” Maven Gig says. “The nature of employment is changing, and Maven Gig is a nimble platform that will grow and adapt with the shift.”

Freelancers who subscribe to Maven Gig in San Francisco are offered access to a Chevrolet Bolt EV on a weekly basis starting at $229 per-week — plus taxes (including insurance, maintenance and free charging at EVGo stations for a “limited time”).

“Gig drivers typically drive for more than one app throughout the day,” GM notes. “Maven Gig is platform agnostic to allow drivers to switch between several brands, services and gigs.”

Other GM cars available in the SF Maven Gig program include the Chevrolet Cruze ($189/week plus taxes), Malibu ($199/week plus taxes) and Trax ($209/week plus taxes).

The program is particularly aimed at those Gig Economy workers who juggle several platforms for their assignments. GM is positioning Maven Gig as “a low-risk way to test the freelance economy and maximize earning potential by transitioning between multiple on-demand services.”

The company also says its continuing to experiment with pricing and will adjust offerings based on the gig economy and driver needs.

As restaurants increasingly rely on on-demand delivery apps to provide a new revenue stream and supplement in-dining experiences, GM is betting that companies will rush to find ways to make it easier to build constant sources of delivery people.

“Freelancers in the sharing economy want flexibility and Maven Gig is a seamless way to maximize opportunities,” said Rachel Bhattacharya, director of Commercial Mobility Strategy for Maven. “If the driver has a lull on one service they can easily flip to another and keep hustling.”

 

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Salesforce: Email Still Works To Drive Consumer Connections, As Artificial Intelligence Emerges

“Personalization” is the primary focus of marketers in the Age of Amazon, but to actually achieve that one-to-one relationship with consumers, a Salesforce report highlights the value of one of the older forms of digital marketing: email.

Email seems like an odd touchpoint for marketers’ success as social media and messaging apps emerge as key entries for personalized campaigns. On average, the 3,500 global CMOs surveyed by Salesforce in its Fourth Annual State of Marketing report say 34 percent of their budget is spent on channels they didn’t know existed five years ago — and they expect that to reach 40% by 2019.

The reason for email’s continued relevance, even as Saleforce’s survey shows growth for video, texting/sms, and AI, is that email works well to amplify all those channels.

“Over the past two years, we’ve seen an explosion in the use of newer channels like video advertising, SMS, mobile apps, and native advertising/sponsored content,” Salesforce says. “The percentage of both B2B and B2C marketers using video advertising, for example, has risen by triple digits over the last two years.”

Despite its well-established presence in the B2C marketer’s toolbox, email is still growing at a significant rate, Salesforce notes. Email’s number two ranking among marketing professionals surveyed indicates that marketers may be testing new channels in conjunction with proven ones to find combinations that work for their consumers.

The three biggest benefits cited in the report are improved awareness, higher rates of customer engagement, and improved customer acquisition.

“Email provides a window into customer behavior — such as which emails they open, what device they use, and which offers they redeem — making it a natural candidate to leverage alongside other channels to boost personalization and engagement,” the report states.

While email, when combined with other channels, can help reinforce a message and extend reach, using the data available to craft the message can have a bigger impact.

“This is a missed opportunity for most marketers who aren’t evolving messages between email and other channels based on customer behaviors or actions,” Salesforce concludes. “About half (51 percent) of the emails they send are identical messages to what they’ve broadcast in other channels.”

AI’s Coming Impact

The Salesforce State Of Marketing report notes that 51 percent of marketers surveyed are already using AI.

A separate IDC/Salesforce analysis buttresses that report’s view that that AI will be the fastest growing channel in the next few years.

AI-powered CRM activities will drive new efficiencies in how companies sell, service, and market, ultimately expected to create more than $1.1 trillion in new GDP impact worldwide by 2021.

The IDC/Salesforce report says 2018 is poised to be “a landmark year for AI adoption.” More than 40 percent of companies said they will adopt AI within the next two years.

In addition by 2018, IDC forecasts that 75 percent of enterprise and ISV development will include AI or machine-learning functionality in at least one application.

Salesforce has made a particularly big bet on AI with the release of its Einstein project last fall. With Salesforce Einstein, AI capabilities are embedded with “every Salesforce Cloud,” the company has said. Einstein leverages all data within Salesforce—customer data; activity data from social media chatter, email, calendar entries, and e-commerce; social data streams such as Tweets and images; and even IoT signals—to train machine learning models.

“AI is impacting all sectors of the economy and every business,” said Keith Block, vice chairman, president and COO, Salesforce. “For the CRM market—the fastest-growing category in enterprise software—the impact of AI will be profound, ushering in new levels of productivity for employees and empowering companies to drive even better experiences for their customers. For companies embracing AI, it’s critical that they create new workforce development programs to ensure employees are prepared for this next wave of innovation.”

Among the key findings from the IDC report on the economic impact of AI on CRM:

  • AI associated with CRM could boost global business revenues by $1.1 trillion from the beginning of 2017 to the end of 2021.
  • This global business revenue boost is predicted to be led primarily by increased productivity ($121 billion) and lowered expenses due to automation ($265 billion).
  • The types of AI companies are planning to use, or exploring, range from machine learning (25 percent) and voice/speech recognition (30 percent), to text analysis (27 percent) and advanced numerical analysis (31 percent).
  • New jobs associated with the boost in global business revenues could reach more than 800,000 by 2021, surpassing those jobs lost to automation from AI.
  • Underpinning the adoption of AI, 46 percent of AI adopters report that more than 50 percent of their CRM activities are executed using the public cloud.
  • The United States is predicted to lead the way in new business revenue growth due to the economic impact of AI ($596 billion), followed by Japan ($91 billion), Germany ($62 billion), the U.K. ($55 billion) and France ($50 billion).

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Do On-Demand Food Delivery Apps ‘Eat’ Restaurant Visits?

Restaurants have felt considerable pressure the past few years the sign on with the on-demand food delivery apps from GrubHub/Seamless, Yelp’s Eat24, UberEats, DoorDash, Caviar, and general online courier services such as Postmates.

The question restaurants wrestle with is if people can have their food in the comfort of their own home — and save on beverages and other menu items typically driven by table-service — would they stop coming altogether?

When looking at individual categories like Quick Serve Restaurants and Casual Dining, the answer from a report by mobile data analytics provider Sense360, is complicated.

But for the most part, Sense360’s look into the connection between mobile-based food ordering and traffic to full-service restaurants and QSRs “found no significant decrease in restaurant visits and in-store orders from customers who have downloaded third-party delivery apps.”

To arrive at that conclusion in its report, Impact of Third Party Delivery Apps on In-Restaurant Orders, Sense360 tracked over 21 million anonymous full-service dining establishments and QSR visits to measure visit frequency both before and after downloading third-party delivery apps.

The bottom line is that there is no evidence that delivery apps drive significant, short-term drops in visitation, said Sense360 CEO and founder Eli Portnoy.

“With delivery among the most watched business opportunities in the restaurant industry today, our findings tell an interesting story of both who delivery app users are, and that downloading such apps did not impact their in-restaurant visit behaviors and frequency,” Portnoy said. “The data gives a clear and unequivocal view into this industry trend, provides clarity that restaurant operators and owners have been seeking to help them make the most informed and strategic business decisions.”

Apps’ Added Value

Sense360’s findings offer an expanded view of the benefits of app-based delivery by Los Angeles restaurants in an LATimes feature story back in March. That story noted that while LA residents tend to order in much less compared to their New York City counterparts, on-demand delivery apps carved out a new revenue stream for many independent local places like Mendocino Farms and even restaurant chains like Bareburger.

“When it comes to restaurant economics, it just makes sense that delivery is becoming an increasingly large portion of everyone’s business,” Allen Wong, president of Silverlake Chinese restaurant Fat Dragon and a partner at the Sticky Rice Group (which relies primarily on Caviar’s delivery platform) told the LATimes.

Challenges For QSRs and Casual Dining

As one example that proves out its thesis, Sense360 analyzed McDonald’s customers who downloaded the UberEats app during the brand’s delivery test pilot in participating Florida DMAs. The LA-based company, which collects anonymous always-on location and survey data from a panel of 2 million consumers, found that McDonald’s did not experience any noticeable visitation decrease among the UberEats users.

While that may augur well for McDonald’s planned expansion of mobile ordering and delivery, along with other omnichannel touchpoints to make its franchises more appealing to connected consumers, the overall balance between app-delivery and QSRs and casual dining appears a bit mixed.

But as Sense360 notes, it’s not a matter of delivery cannibalizing in-store table dining. Any disconnect between app ordering and restaurant traffic is due to factors in the individual habits of groups of consumers.

“It’s important to consider all the factors that come into play,” Portnoy said. “If delivery apps caused lower visitation rates, then the delivery apps could indicate cannibalization of in-store visits. However, if delivery apps merely indicate a different type of user according to socioeconomic level, demographic, or geography, who has a naturally lower rate of visitation, then creating opportunity for them to access the brand on a delivery app could drive incremental purchases.”

Here too, Sense360’s analysis of app downloads and restaurant visitation offer insights into those habits.

Case in point: Consumers with delivery apps installed on their phone go out to QSR and Fast Casual Restaurants 5 percent less than people without delivery apps, Sense360 said.

And that difference is why restaurant operations like Bloomin’ Brands — the corporate parent of casual dining franchises Outback Steakhouse, Carrabba’s Italian Grill, Bonefish Grill, and Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar — say its main competition isn’t other restaurants. It’s all the on-demand dining options consumers have available from their couch as they tap out orders on an increasing variety of smartphone delivery apps.

As brick-and-mortar categories from retail to groceries seek to find the right mix of methods to bridge online and offline business, the common thread is simply giving customers many and as customizable options as possible to meet their varied mindsets in the moment.

In a larger sense, app delivery can provide a crucial path of online discovery for restaurants, alongside the ability to find individual locations’ menu items via search queries and via maps, as Google My Business has recently begun providing. Along with tying together local business info across social media, reservations platforms, and review sites, restaurants can use mobile delivery platforms to enhance their marketing outreach.

Among the other findings from Sense360’s report:

  • Delivery apps are more popular and oft-used by consumers in top metro areas including New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles.
  • Those who download delivery apps tend to be of higher income, and visit fine dining restaurants two-and-half times more frequently than those without a delivery app.
  • Delivery app users who frequent QSRs tend to visit newer and higher-priced concepts such as Chipotle and Starbucks more often than traditional quick-serve locations such as McDonalds or Hardees.

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