If you were in any doubt about this being the year that ‘hyperlocal’ became mainstream, surely Pinterest’s recent announcement that it is drawing in local business information from Foursquare, to enhance the location information contained within its Place Pins, is the final piece of evidence.
After all, over the past months we’ve seen the tech giants of this world, namely Google, Facebook and now Pinterest, significantly dialling up their local business space, to the point where 118 has now announced that they are stopping printing their physical Directory.
Google has made significant changes to its local search listings. Those listings, which now appear ahead of organic search, have been reduced from a 7 locations listing to a ‘3-pack’ search result, and just a week or so ago Google also rolled out an updated, cleaner look for its Google Maps search results, incorporating a new listings card for local businesses. Just a month previously, Facebook announced ‘Verified Badges’, a significant update to the credibility and quality of its local business pages, for the 45 million businesses already actively using the social network. These changes had followed on from their previous Pages update, which it said, were focused on helping businesses to build their mobile presence and communicate with customers more easily, particularly via a new and more prominent ‘call to action’ button. Meanwhile we believe Apple are in the middle of updating their next Map iteration for pin location verification.
Today’s announcement by Pinterest means users will be able to make phone calls and get directions to bricks-and-mortar locations from within the iOS app (with web and Android coming soon). They will also be able to see store opening hours and read tips and reviews left by customers. Pinterest is automatically pulling in the location data via the public Foursquare API, for its nearly seven billion Place Pins globally.
These developments show how keen the big tech companies are to deliver an amazing local experience for their users. Finding a product or service in their local area used to require a clunky combination of a Directory listing (physical or digital), plus a map, and a telephone number, but nowadays your smartphone can provide everything in one seamless experience. And we know that consumers are adopting this kind of behaviour, with search terms including "near me," increasing by x34 on Google, and with 80 per cent of these search queries coming from mobile.
For local retail outlets, the implications are obvious. In order to get ‘found’ ahead of your competitors in the digital environment, you now have to actively manage an increasingly complex local digital ecosystem that requires (amongst other things) locally focused content experiences, accurate business listings across multiple providers and positive reviews and citations.
However, national brands also need to pay serious attention to this space. After all, why invest so much time and money connecting and engaging with people at a national level, to not then capitalise on that investment in the last mile to the physical store?
Mike Fantis is managing partner at Make It Rain - a DAC Group company.