These days, local marketing can seem a lot more complicated to the average small business owner than it used to be—and for very good reason. With advances in digital offerings, small businesses are now confronted with a growing range of possibilities for their ad dollars. Moreover, owners are faced with the harder task of determining how to link their various initiatives into cohesive strategies that deliver the strongest rates of return for their businesses.
Since the start of the year, I’ve watched first-hand as several Yellow Pages companies in the U.S. and Canada have expanded and retooled their offerings in order to help small businesses overcome these types of obstacles.
Major players including SuperMedia, DexOne Corp., The Berry Company, and Yellow Pages Group have recently announced new services, partnerships, and acquisitions that provide their small business clients with the means to combine the most recent digital marketing possibilities with traditional print and online options that they’ve used for years.
When I say digital offerings, I’m not just referring to Internet Yellow Pages, which millions of small businesses already know and use. I’m also talking about new vertical web sites including digital coupon sites, shopping comparison sites and user review sites that are among the latest drivers of local leads and are increasingly being added to the portfolios of various Yellow Pages companies.
As recent statistics show, these sites are among the most popular and trusted destinations for online shoppers and present exciting opportunities for local businesses:
Digital coupon sites: Digital coupons, which provide users with discounted promotion codes for online products, are quickly becoming a regular part of the online shopping experience. Coupons allow small businesses to generate new business and online buzz about their offerings.
They’re popular—ranked among the most-utilized tools for online shoppers, second only to major search engines, according to Compete.com’s Online Shopper Intelligence Study released last month, Approximately 35% of U.S. online users surveyed said they visited coupon sites when shopping online.
They’re also proven to generate sales. About 20% of U.S. online users—or nearly 45 million consumers— used digital coupons in 2009, an increase of 18.4% from 38 million users in 2008, according to research compiled by Coupons.com. In January, coupon traffic measured more than 14 million users and generated $34 million in online sales, a study by coupon aggregator RetailMeNot.com found.
Shopping comparison sites: Shopping comparison sites allow users to browse a range of products sold by participating retailers and compare prices, features, seller ratings and reviews, and other indicators. These sites provide a new platform for small businesses to gain visibility and compete directly with local and national retailers based on facts—not who, for example, can outbid the other in purchasing key search engine keywords.
Approximately 80 million U.S. consumers use shopping comparison sites, according to the Compete.com study. The survey also found that 22% of online users said they visit a shopping comparison site when purchasing products online.
User review sites: User-generated review sites provide the first-hand experiences of past customers who have purchased services or products from local businesses. These sites, which including ratings and other features, allow small businesses to let their clients promote their offerings for them by sharing positive stories and recommending that others patronize their services
User review sites are well-trusted by consumers. In fact, consumer opinions posted online are among the most trusted forms of advertising, bested only by recommendations from people known, according to the Nielsen Global Online Consumer Survey released in July 2009. Businesses gain credibility and can generate new business leads by supporting their presence on user review sites.
As these online destinations continue to grow, small businesses will be looking for advice on how best to promote their offerings. Our industry will need to live up to its important role of counseling local advertisers by providing details of how they can engage in this new digital marketplace.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.