Have you watched how people use their smart phones? If they are looking for a new restaurant, an auto repair place, or a florist, they rarely go to their phone’s web browser. Even the best phone-enabled browser is nearly as slow to load as dial-up Internet access. And, once you get there, the pages often are difficult to view on a small phone-sized screen.
As a result, the easiest way to find a nearby provider of a product or service is to go to the Google Maps application, and use the search field to query what you need. That way, you get only the businesses nearby. But, that isn’t the only advantage.
With Google Maps, local businesses matching a query appear on a map, and clicking on the map’s “pin” brings up more information about the business. In fact, the searcher will have access to lots of information, including hours, phone number, address, specialties, credit cards accepted, etc. You’ll see all of the information that the business has provided through Google Local. (If you don’t have a Google local listing, you’re really missing out! Give me a call and I’ll tell you how to get one.)
But, Google Maps also offers another important feature—click to call. Just as searchers online usually want to make contact through the Web, those who are searching using their phone usually want to make contact by phone. With a listing on Google Maps, the searcher doesn’t even need to dial the phone number. All they need to do is click on the phone number link to place the call.
Research by Compete in their 2009 Surveys showed that 37% of smart phone owners have used their phone to purchase something non-mobile in the past 6 months. That makes the growing use of smart phones important to many businesses.
It is especially important for local companies that tend to get lots of spur-of-the-moment business. For example, someone who is has broken down on the freeway isn’t going to do a lot of research before calling a towing company. And someone who has a pipe break in their home just wants a plumber as quickly as possible. Restaurants and entertainment venues (the Compete survey found that 12% had purchased movie tickets via their phone), auto repair shops, home and personal care companies and many other local businesses can benefit greatly from having a well-optimized Google Local listing—especially with the growing popularity of smart phones.
With Google’s recent entry into the smart phone market with its own iPhone competitor, you can expect that the company will introduce many other phone apps that integrate with search. These will also, undoubtedly, offer new opportunities for advertisers. Google already offers the opportunity to display a discount offer for your store or business when someone uses their phone to search for your products or services. So, what do you think is next?