A great local Web experience has long been promised by the Internet, but very rarely delivered. However, with the rise of services like Yelp and Foursquare, and continued improvements in geo-filtering tools, it appears that local will finally live up to its potential.
How big a deal is figuring out local? Think of it this way: Google was built on local advertisers, through use of what was called the longtail. The struggle for local marketing and user experience has always been a question of content. Local merchants rarely have the resources to develop a quality digital presence; even when they could, the information would be out of date very quickly. Enter social media local sites like Yelp and Foursquare, which have turned tagging and reviewing local merchants into a game. Getting hundreds of thousands of people to do the work to create up-to-date local content has always been the missing link. And the fact that services like Foursquare make it not only easy, but fun, to use your GPS-enabled phone is the final piece of the puzzle.
Why is this important to national marketers? Because, like politics, all marketing is local. Papa John's advertisements during various national sporting events had me thinking pizza. So my next step was to find the local Papa John's. While I was going through the online ordering experience (which is fantastic), I decided to check out this Papa John's Yelp rating, and was very disappointed to find that after seven reviews, my local Papa John's only had one star and a number of customer complaints. That would usually have led me to pick someplace else to order from, but I wanted to see if the delivery service was as bad as Yelp said.
So I ordered. After an hour with no pizza, I decided to call the Papa John's that I'd ordered from, but no one picked up the phone. I called multiple times; still no answer. An hour and a half after ordering, my cold order arrived -- or at least, part of my order.
We all know that customer service is always important, but what I learned from Yelp was that my experience was not an isolated incident for my local Papa John's. I also developed an even deeper trust for Yelp reviews when it comes to making service decisions. For Papa John's, Yelp offers an opportunity to keep up with what people are saying about its stores locally, so the company can best capitalize on the money it spends to advertise nationally. In short, blending local reputation and national advertising will be key to digital marketing success.