Using Mobile Coupons in Google Maps & Local Business Center

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Unless you’ve been living under a very large rock the past 18 months, the recession we’ve been in has forced marketers to do two things – look for new opportunities to promote their businesses (and websites) and be more sensitive to the needs of their consumers. This is illustrated well in the rise of local search marketing and coupon use. The need to make online coupons work in the context of a local business, however, remains challenging. That’s about to change.

Small business owners (especially those of the brick-andmortar variety) have an advantage over larger retailers today. Thanks to millions of consumers searching for local businesses and the increasing convergence of search with mobile devices, a genuinely viable opportunity is now present. Maps, mobile devices and local search put your business front and center when and where consumers need you and, in some cases, on equal footing with the big boys of commerce.

So what is the secret to building a thriving, recession-resistant local business? For many it is in making the most of what Google’s Local Business Center (LBC) provides – including the use of coupons in Google Maps. Google’s Coupon feature, despite the immense value it provides to merchants and retailers, is not a well utilized feature of the LBC. That can be partly attributed to the fact that many argued that coupons in LBC were fraught with issues, including being diffi cult for searchers to fi nd. That objection is about to be overruled.

While adding coupons in the LBC is not new (it was launched in 2007), in late November 2009, Google announced they have made it easier for consumers to fi nd those coupons made available by local merchants. Local businesses in the US can now opt to display and distribute their coupons on mobile devices. Rather than bringing a printed coupon into a store, shoppers will be able to show merchants the coupon, formatted correctly, directly on the screen of their mobile device.

New coupons added to the LBC will be automatically formatted and available on mobile devices, but existing coupons will need to be enabled for mobile distribution. The big question is whether these methods of mobile promotion will become more prominent as customers determine which businesses to frequent based on mobile search and recommendations. Local businesses and consumers must both participate and be educated on mobile coupons for the program to be effective. That said, Google LBC is free to use and a promotional vehicle that should not be ignored.

To make the most of this opportunity, merchants are required to set up a local business profi le in LBC. Including a description, photos and videos, business hours, payment options and a link to the website are known to encourage greater numbers of potential customers to choose the service, so taking the time to include as much relevant information as possible should be your focus. Extra information also helps Google match your listing to more searches, which might increase the number of views your listing (and your website) receive.

Millions of people search for businesses on Google Maps and on Google.com. Setting up an LBC listing also means your business can be found through Google Maps for Mobile, 1-800-GOOG-411 voice directory search, and Google Earth. On any of these services, if someone searches directly for your business name and city, your listing will most likely appear. Providing a mobile coupon gives the searcher yet another, powerful reason to visit your location.

 
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