I recently bought a new car that came equipped with a navigation system. With the exception of a few rental experiences, I'd never owned, much less heavily used, this type of product. The device's mapping features were very good and provided a lot of utilitarian value for trips to uncertain places. But my primary interest -- given my line of work -- was to test the navigation system's search prowess.
I suspect the demographic of people willing to spend $1,000 or more for an in-car navigation system fall into the category of "technologically savvy" consumers. Like me, they'd expect a fair amount of search content for their buck. I'm specifically referring to the ability to find local businesses and various points of interest.
Unfortunately, my new car's navigation system is inadequate in terms of both the type of local content available, and its limited ability to access it.
In all fairness, it's possible the traditional in-car navigation system manufacturers consider their products to be more utilitarian mapping tools than local search portals. Knowing firsthand that consumers' preferences for products and using various online search products can quickly change, I believe we'll soon see these traditional manufacturers team up with data providers in an effort to tap more deeply into the local search market.
Typically, one wouldn't compare an in-car navigation device to an online local search engine or to Facebook, but last week a device called the Dash Express was introduced. It can aggregate all three interactive experiences into a single interface.
In addition to the features of a traditional navigation device and the ability for consumers to access content through various local search products (namely Yahoo Local), Dash offers a social aspect. It collects information from users traveling on the same road or highway, then uses the data to identify pockets of traffic or congestion. It relays an alert to other users traveling in the same direction, allowing them to avoid a potential headache by selecting another route.
As more people join Dash, a better driver and search community will exist. Drivers can even access destination lists created by communities on mashup sites.
I've previously pointed to several potential areas of exposure brick-and-mortar businesses should consider to achieve digital visibility, making them most relevant to how and where their customers search. The Dash is a solid example of how devices can impact and influence consumer spending in local markets.
A host of new companies are promising to deliver brick-and-mortar business listings to various search engines and/or Internet Yellow Pages. In a quickly changing marketplace where consumers have hundreds of touchpoints to refer to when making decisions, many of these new companies are missing an important piece of the puzzle, which the Dash Express represents.
As this niche and others in local search continue to develop, selecting a provider that can distribute local business listings to larger portions of the marketplace will become more important. Proactively establishing the relationships with new content points and manufacturers is a must to reach the ever-elusive and demanding online and off-line consumer.
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Brian Wool is VP of content distribution at Localeze, a Chicago-based local search company. Established in 2003, Localeze specializes in connecting consumers with local merchants through online content collection, enhancement, and distribution. An expert in local Internet search marketing, Brian leads the distribution efforts at Localeze and is responsible for content delivery to over 35 leading search engines, Internet yellow pages, and local directories. Brian previously held various sales and marketing positions at comScore Networks and Claritas.
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