Take a look around… Everyone is glued to their phones! And why wouldn’t they be? Todays smartphones allow you to listen to music, watch videos, play games, use apps and browse the Internet and most of them are freely available with a contract which makes this fabulous technology highly accessible to most people.
If you had told me I’d have broadband internet access in my pocket back around 1999 when I was struggling to get my PC to connect to the dial up ISP I’d have thought you were crazy but now it’s commonplace. I must admit I find my phone a little fiddly for using the Internet but that’s all changing too, screens are getting larger which certainly helps but beyond that we are now getting phones that we can ask questions to as seen with the Siri service on the latest iPhone and Google Voice Actions available for Android phones.
So what does this mean for your business? Well it means that soon it will be commonplace for people to just ask their phone to find a service or product for them. The results get displayed either as search engine listings or as points on a map. This is handy if you are looking for a product or service in your local area.
Times are changing, rapidly! My generation is probably likely to search the internet for the best deal or information, the previous generation may still use the yellow pages but the next generation will be growing up asking their phones whenever they need something and your business needs to be found by these searches.
This year Google announced that 40% of mobile searches have local intent to buy which is a 33% increase from last year. These voice recognition services are in their infancy and to me at least are more of a novelty than a useful tool right now. But that will change, they will get better at recognising not only what you are saying but also the context of the question. It won’t be long before you can ask “where can I get a cheap coffee around here?” and be shown a list of coffee prices, distances and directions to nearby local coffee houses. I just tried this with my Android tablet and was given a bunch of results in New York City… I’m in Devon, UK! But it understood at least my intention and this will only get more accurate in the near future.
So what does this mean for your business?
Well you need to get listed for a start. Android devices get the results from Google, you need to get your business listed with Google Places to be returned on those devices. Apples Siri gets it’s results from Yelp so you also need to get listed with Yelp to be returned on Apple devices. You may already be listed if someone has written a review about you or your business is already in their database, in this case you need to claim your listing to be able to update it.
But that’s just the first step, these local results are shown along with a star rating system based on reviews. I can see that Starbucks on Astor Place has a 3 star average out of 260 reviews where as Dunkin Donuts on Lafayette Street only has 1.5 stars from 3 reviews… If I’m going to travel a few thousand miles for a coffee I might as well be sure that I’m going to get a decent one when I get there!
So of course it’s easy for a big name like Starbucks to get a lot of reviews but they only have an average of 3 stars which tells me that a lot of people must have given it a very low review. I also see another result for a local company called the Porto Rico Impoting Co with 16 reviews and an average of 4.5 stars, this suggests to me that this is a good coffee shop with consistent standards… Possibly worth the transatlantic journey?
So you need to get reviews to compete but it’s not about numbers, it’s about quality. Once you are listed then ask those customers who you have a good relationship with if they wouldn’t mind spending a minute to write a review or rating you on Google Places and Yelp.
Start now and get ahead of the competition, many have yet to list their businesses with these local searches so you could find yourself getting ahead by acting early rather than playing catch up later on down the line!