In the past few weeks I’ve looked at a couple of different local search services. After BMW announced last week that Google Local Search is now available from the latest BMW onboard navigation system it is about time to share some thoughts with you. I also have to admit writing this post has been fueled by a discussion about whether Yellow Pages are of any use these days or just a waste of paper. Even Seth Godin, has posted on his blog about the possibilities and opportunities of putting the “Yellow Pages in your Pocket”
So besides BMW, let’s have a look at two mobile product/shop finders and how to choose a proper pub in Japan.
Sprint, a US based mobile carrier has recently launched a location based product finder. The service is provided by Slifter, whose promise it is to find any product you are looking for at a local store near you.
Slifter can actually be used with any phone that has a web browser. Simply type in the product you’re looking for and the zip code of the area you want to search the product in and you get back a list of search results.
I was wondering who actually knows an area’s zip code away from home and so did Sprint. The trick with Sprint is that selected handsets are “GPS-enabled”, so you don’t have to type in a zip code. However I’m not sure what GPS-enabled means for Sprint as they had phones listed I wasn’t even aware of having a GPS chip, e.g. the LG 550, the RAZR V3m, or the Samsung M610. I had a look at the manufacturer websites and I couldn’t see a GPS chip on any of those phones’ specifications listings. (If I’m wrong, let me know!).
But let’s refocus on the service.
I gave it a shot and searched for a yummy “cheese cake” in the zip code area 10003, which is New York’s East Village where I once lived.
Unfortunately, the result that I got back was for a Jazz CD titled “Cheese Cake” at the online store Buy.com. Well, not really what I was looking for. It seems like local search is not a piece of cake for Slifter as a couple of other searches led to similar awkward results.
Another service I looked at was ShopLocal.
Since the beginning of August they also offer mobile local search in addition to their web search site. The mobile service was developed in partnership with uLocate Communications as a widget on the WHERE platform. The biggest difference here is that you can’t simply open your mobile phone’s browser, visit a mobile web page and do a search. You have to download a widget application first and install it on your phone – at US$ 2.99 a month the widget has a price. Is it worth it? I honestly don’t know because it only works with US carriers. Please let me know if you have experienced ShopLocal on your phone and share your thoughts.
I did a couple of ShopLocal searches using their website and yes, it found Cheese Cake in New York … at Amazon.com. That not really the localized search result I expected.
So I can only agree with Steve Smith, who asked “What The Hell is Mobile Search Anyway?” after a rather sponsored experience on his phone.
To me it seems like Slifter and ShopLocal are more or less an advertising platform and if the local store at the corner hasn’t bought into it, it won’t display in the search results. The expectation of local search though is a different one for consumers. You’d expect an unbiased truly local store search. When doing a local search on the go you don’t want e-commerce links, you want the address of the next nearby store that carries what you are looking for. Am I wrong?
BMW is meeting that expectation by offering Google Local Search on their onboard navigation systems in Germany.
Simply enter what you are looking for and Google delivers relevant search results right around your car’s current position. If you read about what Google is up to by paying freelancers to go from store to store and catalogue local business free for the stores’ owners then you might not be too surprised that they are clearly on the right track.
I think this is a nice step to make BMW Connected Drive the leader of the automotive pack. They have already introduced a “Send-to-Car” feature in early March. Look up a destination in Google Maps and send it to your BMW’s cellular-based Drive Assist navigation system.
Now let’s look at how Guinness is bridging the distribution channel divide in Tokyo.
Consumers thirsty for a pint of the Irish draught can easily locate a proper pub nearby using the mobile local search called Guinness Navi. They simply snap a picture of a Guinness QR code to pull open the Guinness Navi mobile search page. Of course the Guinness Navi URL can be entered manually too, but QR codes are so popular in Japan that this significantly lowers the barrier of usage vs. manually typing in a URL.
Once the Guinness Navi search page is accessed the consumers location is send to the service which then displays a map with the closest pubs serving Guinness. The consumer’s location is determined by using any of the localizing technologies available in Japan; antenna triangulation/cell ID, GPS, Wifi, and of course also manual address input.
You can see the desktop version of the map on the Guinness website.
Guinness Navi was developed by Naviblog a Tokyo-based mobile marketing firm and as no downloads, installs or updates are needed for using the service it’s really nice and slick.