Your Car Now Makes Local – Mobile

The year was 2005 and I was working with a team on the first in-car Yellow Pages to help owners of vehicles with navigation systems find local businesses. Back in ’05 there were numerous technological and scale issues that needed to be addressed. For example, navigation systems or GPS devices were generally DVD or CD-ROM based with a disk of mapping and point-of-interest (POI) data sitting in the trunk of the car. That disk was shipped with the car when it was sold new and rarely updated. As a result, on average the data was more than 18 months old and hence highly inaccurate. Additionally, only a small percentage of cars had built-in GPS systems, so advertisers were reluctant to entertain a paid listing/advertising model. My friend Antony B. spent the better part of a year trying to drum up advertiser interest only to get doors slammed in his face. The idea of bringing local search to the highly mobile automobile crowd had great merit, but sadly it was ahead of its time.

Fast-forward to 2014 and we now have a number of vehicles that come equipped with Internet access and local search is a focal point for these systems’ functionality.

Volvo has introduced a system called “Volvo Sensus Connect” that enables owners to access local search and Yelp.

The following are a sequence of photos of a sample search in a Volvo utilizing Yelp. From the main menu the user accesses their Yelp app.

volvo-yelp

Users can review listings ordered by proximity (distance) and Yelp star ratings.

volvo-pizza

Once selected, the user can review further details, including the ratings information, or call or navigate to the location.

volvo-three-boys-pizza

It should be noted that there are number of auto manufacturers with similar functionally; I am aware of many, including Dodge, Ford, and BMW for example.

Increasingly we are seeing local search become more and more relevant as vehicles now have apps integrated into them and “wearables” such as Apple Watch, Moto 360, and Pebble also display and access local business information. We are truly starting to see the Internet of Things begin to emerge.

The question becomes, how do you ensure that your local listings are present on these new devices and optimized to gain maximum benefit? The answer is like everything else in local search, the “devil is in the details.”

From a starting point we generally like to consider understanding which listing distribution sources provide information for the devices we are interested in impacting. Generally speaking there are seven data sources/aggregators that power local listings including GPS systems:

  • Localeze
  • Infogroup
  • Factual
  • Acxiom
  • Nokia – Here
  • Google
  • Yelp

Most devices use one or more of these data providers to power their local search applications. It should be noted that recently Yelp has made a concerted effort to have its app embedded in many manufacturers’ systems. Because consumers put such a high value on ratings and reviews for selecting businesses, Yelp enjoys an advantage over other local search providers with less developed or valued ratings and reviews. Yelp maintains its own listings database, so it is important to directly optimize your Yelp listings for in-car navigation systems as well as other devices.

Keeping in mind that most of the apps use distance as the primary search criteria, you will want to ensure that all of your business listings are accurate and properly geo-coded. Google Map Maker and Nokia’s Here can be helpful resources in correcting misplaced map markers and geo-coding.

A specific optimization tactic for restaurants is to ensure that your firm/brand’s locations are represented not only for the base “restaurants” category/heading, but also all relevant cuisine types (e.g., pizza, Italian, etc.). This is because it is one of the few headings on GPS and in-car navigation systems that has sub categories.

Finally, the reason I have added Google as one of the important GPS–in-car navigation systems data sources is the fact that many folks without built-in systems utilize Google Maps on their smartphones. So any discussion of optimizing listings for this use case (consumers in cars) would be incomplete if Google was not mentioned.

As the world of local search extends into more elements of the Internet of Things, the connective tissue remains your local listing optimization. It is as simple as understanding that NAP (Name, Address, and Phone) is the enjoining element that ties your business/brand/location to consumer action. It is a world of painstaking detail of listing consistency and amplification. Done correctly, this can provide your business with discovery and selection by consumers when they are precisely at the moment of purchase. It’s something that’s certainly worth the attention of any brand that wants to grow and thrive in the fractionalized world of local search. Get optimizing!

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