Bing Expands Local Business Portal: Group Deals, Virtual Punchcards & New Print Collateral

bing-business-portal-logoGoogle may have most of the local traffic, but Bing’s local business tools are running laps around Google’s.

When it launched in April, the Bing Business Portal already had outdone Google with several important features. Now, a new set of tools that Bing added within the past couple weeks puts it even further ahead of Google in many ways — but not all. Here’s a look at what’s new in the Bing Business Portal (BBP).

Group Deals

The BBP has offered a basic Deals tool since April. These are straight-ahead, single customer deals like dollar-based or percent-based discounts. Now, local business owners can create Group Deals that trigger only when a certain number of customers buy. The business owner can create the deal and establish all terms/requirements right inside the BBP.

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As the “Revenue” section above shows, Bing is splitting revenue 50/50 with the small business owner. Groupon has historically offered the same revenue split, but some businesses have reportedly been able to negotiate a better rate. (The New York Times recently reported that Groupon is averaging 42 percent of coupon revenues, and says Google reportedly gets 35% from Google Offers.)

Bing’s program is not fully self-serve. Once the merchant creates a group deal in the BBP and submits it to Bing, a Bing “city manager” will contact the business owner within three days to discuss the offer. In a recent briefing call, Bing explained that the city manager may suggest changes to the offer if the original version is unlikely to be a success.

At the moment, Bing’s Group Deals is only available in 12 markets: Atlanta, Austin, Boston, Chicago, Dallas/Ft. Worth, Honolulu, Los Angeles, New York, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle and Medford, Ore. Bing says Group Deals will eventually be available across the U.S.

Virtual Punchcards (Loyalty Offers)

Another new tool in the Bing Business Portal gives local business owners the opportunity to start a loyalty program using what you might call “virtual punchcards.” Right now, this is only available in conjunction with the Group Deals program, but Bing says it would consider separating the two if there’s enough demand from local business owners who only want to use the loyalty program tool.

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The loyalty program requires customers to own a smartphone — thus the “virtual punchcard” name. The customer joins a merchant’s program by scanning a QR code and, once in the program, the customer re-scans the QR code to get a “punch” from the business with each visit/purchase. There’s a bit of friction in the process due to the smartphone requirement, and because the customer may need to hand over his/her smartphone so that the business employee can take care of the “punch.”

As the local business owner is using the BBP to setup a loyalty program, Bing automatically creates printable support material — one PDF is a sign with the QR code for posting in the business, and another PDF offers step-by-step instructions for the business owner to share with employees. There are additional print options available during the creation process, including posters and table tents.

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New Options To Create Print Material

That print focus has been extended across the Bing Business Portal. A “Create” sub-menu option that gives business owners the chance to make a variety of print collateral is available in more places than at launch.

For example, from the standard Business tab, users can create two-sided business cards, posters or post cards. From the Events tab, post cards and posters are available. It’s a pretty complete online builder that lets users choose colors, add images and more. (In fact, if the business has uploaded a company logo, the create tool will, by default, initially create a business card design with matching colors.)

The end-result of making a business card is a free, downloadable hi-res PDF that can be sent or taken to a preferred printer. But interestingly, the BBP lets users send poster and post cards designs to a local Office Depot for printing.

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After sending the design to Office Depot, the store will contact the business owner by phone to discuss pricing and scheduling.

What’s Still Missing?

In addition to what’s mentioned above, Bing has made several smaller updates to the tools and features that were available when the BBP launched. Add it all together, and Bing offers a much more robust and valuable marketing tool — not just online marketing, either — for small business owners than what Google Places offers.

But there’s at least one key piece that Bing lacks: analytics/data.

Right now, there’s very little information for business owners about how customers are interacting with their Bing local listing. The closest thing is a page that shows how often QR codes created within the BBP have been scanned.

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On the other hand, the Google Places dashboard tells business owners how often their local listing was displayed, how often “actions” were taken (clicks to the business website, requests for driving directions) and offers a neutered list of search queries that led the listing to appear in search results. The data is far from great, but it’s something — and it’s more than Bing provides.

That’s one very thing Google Places offers that Bing’s Business Portal doesn’t. I’m guessing that won’t be the case for too long, though.

Related Topics: Channel: Local | Microsoft: Bing Maps & Local | Top News

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About The Author: is Editor-In-Chief of Search Engine Land. His news career includes time spent in TV, radio, and print journalism. His web career continues to include a small number of SEO and social media consulting clients, as well as regular speaking engagements at marketing events around the U.S. He recently launched a site dedicated to Google Glass called Glass Almanac and also blogs at Small Business Search Marketing. Matt can be found on Twitter at @MattMcGee and/or on Google Plus. You can read Matt's disclosures on his personal blog.

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  • http://www.antezeta.com/blog/ Sean Carlos

    Bing’s Business Portal is currently limited to businesses with a physical presence in the US. It would be interesting to know what Bing is planning for the rest of the world. In the UK there is a landing page with instructions on how to enter data using a third party: http://www.bingforbusiness.com/ . In Italy only limited business types appear on Bing maps and links to the Italian yellow pages are broken (I did write their support…). In other countries, like Portugal, Bing doesn’t even offer maps yet.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001538587411 sakib10

    bing new business portal is now limited for rest of the world so its should plan quickly how they provide service for the people………

  • http://couponguru.info/ CMG

    Are the smaller merchants once again going to be lost in the crowd of deals? There are now so many deals on so many sites that to stand out or appear on the first page of deal aggregators and deal search sites like Bing’s latest launch, merchants will now have to optimise their deals.

    Will the smallest businesses have to spend money on SEO to stay ahead of the competition or is the mere mention of their business on the deal sites with no upfront payment be enough to keep them interested?

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