Does Local Search Equal A Trillion Dollars?

How many times have you gone to Best Buy to buy a new camera/TV/computer/printer and were carrying a bunch of printouts of product reviews you got from researching online first?

More and more of us are now researching purchases “online” and then buying “offline” in our respective local communities. In fact, Yahoo just released a study that confirms this behavior, and even more specifically outlines how online advertising affects offline purchase behavior.

Greg Sterling, interestingly enough, calls this behavior “Local Search” by way of his definition:

“Local search is a process where users conduct research online but with the ultimate intention or result being an offline transaction. It’s about the Internet influencing real-world buying decisions.”

In my mind, this means that “local search” really means “local buying” due to the fact that these two actions are merely steps in the traditional commerce process. In other words, you aren’t going to search for a service or product outside of your geographical vicinity if you intend to buy it offline.

Here’s the other part of Greg’s post that got my attention:

The phrase, The Trillion Dollar Marketplace, comes from recent Jupiter and Forrester e-commerce/retail reports that predict the Internet will be influencing a trillion dollars of offline (local) spending by either 2010 or 2011.

Personally, I think this estimate is a bit overly optimistic (1999 flashback, anyone?), but the point is that we spend most of our buying dollars in the physical community in which we live. You can’t buy food out of state and have it shipped (I guess you could, but it wouldn’t be hot). Most of us still like to try our clothes on before purchasing, and there’s no denying the joy of instant gratification (or less hassle of returns) of picking up that shiny new gadget toy from your local electronics store today (rather than in 7-10 business days). And if I want any type of service or repair for my house or car, guess what, it’s going to be local.

More and more, it’s becoming important for online buying guides to provide very relevant and very accurate local retail guides. Innovations like alerts to local sales and special offers or service referrals from your in-town friends and family are going to become imperative for the bricks and mortar lot to compete for those dollars that are not spent in the online channel.

National Neighborhood Day

Do you love your neighborhood? Are you the one that always hosts the block party? Do your neighbors constantly help each other out?

Show how much you appreciate your community by celebrating on National Neighborhood Day, September 16, 2007.

The mission of National Neighborhood Day is to inspire, build, and sustain the neighborhood relationships that provide the foundation for civic action and the building of stronger, more caring and effective communities.

Also, be sure to check out the short film contest winners from 2006. The three films are very different from each other, and they give a great insight to the wide spectrum of community that exists across our country. The comments from the contest judges reflect this as well.

Visit the National Neighborhood Day website for more info.

Backfence: Lessons Learned

Mark Potts, co-founder of Backfence, has shared some of the lessons he learned from his experience at Backfence. It’s a really insightful post and I’m thankful that he posted it. A lot of what his has to say is inline with what we debate at eNeighbors. You can read his thoughts here. He really gets it.

I want to piggy-back off of some of what he said:

  1. “A top-down, “if you build it, they will come” strategy absolutely does not work…”-This is so true. Local is a huge space, but it won’t be won by the standard approaches that the Internet industry has come to understand with national web portals and global audiences. A bottom-up approach is clearly the only way to go in local. Unfortunately, this means slower growth and more leg work up front, but in the long run, it represents a competitive advantage.
  2. “It’s about the community” – Community first. This is probably true with any site, but especially local sites. If you engage the community, the content will create itself. More importantly, your site will be relevant to users regardless of the content.
  3. “Hyperlocal content is really mundane.” – Yep. Unless it’s relevant to the community. If it is, then the conversation that ensues is really interesting.
  4. “Trust the audience.”– I love this one. Everyone one is scared out of their mind to let people post their own content, and as a result, we have installed a ton of controls to influence appropriate behavior. But at the end of the day, it works because people take responsibility for what they say.
  5. “Focus on strong, well-defined communities.”– In my opinion, this is the number one most important thing. I would argue that this is where Backfence failed. They weren’t local enough.

He has a lot more stuff to say. I highly recommend that you read the full post.

Getting Communities Online

Ran across a video interview on Robert Scoble’s Pod Tech site today. Michael Wood-Lewis is interviewed about his community enabling web service called Front Porch Forum.

I think it’s great to see that people are genuinely interested in a neighborhood-type service that helps people get to know each other in their actual community. This bodes well for eNeighbors since we are interested in connecting communities just like Front Porch Forum is doing.

Now, if only I can get in touch with Mr. Scoble and tell him that he can set up eNeighbors in his neighborhood…

Learn more about getting your neighborhood online

Dove: The Social Ad (r)Evolution

Dove’s “Evolution” video wins the top prize at Cannes Lions Ad Festival this year. This viral video was created as part of Dove’s “Campaign for Real Beauty” and promotes Dove’s self-esteem charity efforts.

Why is this important?

The social movement on the internet (i.e. web 2.0) has allowed this ad to be viewed and dicussed at unprecedented levels. This ad campaign was fueled by the masses. Five (heck, even three) years ago, this type of awareness and communication simply did not exist.

Pete Blackshaw of Nielsen Buzz Metrics has a great post that details out the specifics of Dove’s marketing success.

This just proves that the social web matters in the “real world” and can be used for more things than the MySpace crowd’s party shout outs and obsessive niche markets like twitter and Google Earth. When companies start talking to us about stuff that matters, we get engaged and become part of the community.

Welcome to the (r)evolution.

Where 2.0

The Where 2.0 conference is underway in San Jose. All the big local players are gathered together to share the latest and greatest in location-based technology.

Here’s a quick excerpt from their overview page describing what Where 2.0 is:

Now in its third year, the Where 2.0 Conference is where the grassroots and leading edge developers building location aware technology intersect with the businesses and entrepreneurs seeking out location apps, platforms, and hardware to gain a competitive edge. In the O’Reilly conference tradition, Where 2.0 presents leading trends rather than chasing them.

Visit the blog here, or if you prefer, live Twittering.

It’s also nice to see Garmin participating. Not a lot of big tech firms out of the midwest, but Garmin’s corp headquarters is about 5 blocks from my parent’s house in the suburbs of Kansas City.

The Local Rant

Ahmed Farooq has a great rant on his blog, tech soapbox, about paid reviews and how useless and ineffective they’ve become. But the thing that grabbed my attention was buried in the middle — Ahmed provides some outstanding insight to the difficulty of understanding and utilizing local data.

(The following is in reference to their product iBegin Source)

“I’ll admit people have a hard time understanding the significance – local data is expensive, and that is why we keep seeing the same re-hashed sites. Plus – local data is inaccurate. Horribly so.”

Bottom line is, guys like Ahmed have been working on the data trying to figure out a way to make it relevant. To make it contextual. To make it usable. While other sites (like us here at eNeighbors) are trying to gather the users in one place. A place where local data is again — relevant.

So how do we bring this local data together and give it to the users?

Once again, I think the reason this is so hard is because when you go to Google, Yahoo or MSN, you start at the top. Then you work your way down to the city level. Then if your lucky, you can get to your community level (this is where Ahmed’s comment about the horrible inaccuracies kicks in).

It just makes sense to approach the users from the bottom up. I understand the cost issues associated with keeping a presence in every community in the country — it can’t be done. That’s why you let the residents do it.

But the problem is, they have to care enough to do their share of the work. Why should they care? No one has made it apparent as to how they will benefit. It’s not clear how their input will make their lives better. We need a way for residents to engage in conversation with other residents and in turn provide that missing link of local information that they seek, but don’t fully understand.

Ta da! It’s here. eNeighbors provides this exact sort of communciation platform, and in turn also allows the hyper-local presence that is a perfect match for local data on small businesses at the community level.

 Learn more about eNeighbors

Getting your Board “on board”

Yesterday, Chris touched on one of the hurdles we are trying to overcome right now here are eNeighbors — getting neighborhoods through the signup process. In addition to that, there is usually an issue getting the board of directors of a given neighborhood to get on board (pun intended) with the idea of paying a monthly fee for a web-based service.

We’ve had conversations with both residents and actual board members, and they tell us that they hit a wall when they try to get the board to make a collective decision. For one reason or another they are hesitant to make the commitment. So, I’ve come up with a quick cheat sheet (if you will) for convincing your board of directors that they need eNeighbors.

1. It will make their job easier.
eNeighbors is all about communication. We all now the biggest issue in neighborhoods is that no one knows what’s going on. Communication is weak. By providing a web-based platform to communicate, neighbors keep each other informed. This takes the burden off the shoulders of the board.

2. It’s cheaper (and better) than a normal static website.
Most custom web designers charge anywhere from $1000 to $5000 for web development. This cost does not usually include the hosting fee either. Additionally, the board doesn’t have to make the updates to an eNeighbors site since every resident can do it themselves. Saves the board time and lets them focus on other more important issues.

3. It will make your neighborhood cooler.
And I’m not talking about the average temperature in your area. eNeighbors is a cutting-edge social network website. Nobody else is doing this. Your neighborhood can have all the bragging rights to being the “cool kid” on the block. eNewsletters, online social events, classified ads — these are just a few of the features that will make your neighborhood very attractive to people looking to move to your area.

Find out more about eNeighbors

I want eNeighbors

We’ve had a lot of people tell us that they want eNeighbors in their neighborhood, but don’t know how to go about getting their neighborhood online.

If you’re a resident of a community association and you want eNeighbors, here’s a few suggestions:

  1. Email your board of directors. Email a board member and tell them to visit www.eNeighbors.com/overview/. We’ll be happy to walk them through a demonstration. If you don’t know your board members, their contact information is usually listed in your neighborhood directory or newsletter.
  2. Attend your monthly HOA board meeting. Most boards hold monthly meetings that are open to all neighbors. Be sure to bring our brochure for the board to review.
  3. Call your property manager. If your neighborhood is professionally managed by a property manager, give them a call and tell them that you want eNeighbors.
  4. Tell us to do it!We’d be happy to contact your board or property management company and explain the benefits of eNeighbors. Just send an email to sales [at] eneighbors.com and let us know who to get in touch with.

If you want to learn more about eNeighbors, take a tour.

The Neighborhood Champion

There’s always that one person in every neighborhood. You may not know them personally, but it’s likely that you’ve benefited from the time and effort that they put into your community.

I’m talking about the person who plans the annual garage sale, organizes the progressive dinner, gets the kids together for the pool party, publishes the neighborhood newsletter, and may even call you for a donation for the neighborhood swim team.

As you might imagine, I love working with these people. At some point, I’m almost always in contact with the “neighborhood champion” in every community that uses our services.

If you sit on the board of directors in your neighborhood and you don’t know who your neighborhood champion is, I implore you to recruit them immediately. The energy that they bring is overwhelming and will be amplified with the support of the board of directors.

Neighborhood champions are so important because they bring the community together through constant communication. They spend hours in Microsoft Publisher creating flyers and newsletters in hopes that they can get a few more people to come to the Fall Bash.

I was talking with a neighborhood champion today who explained to me how eNeighbors acts like a neighborhood champion, which got me to thinking about the similarities between eNeighbors and the neighborhood champion:

  1. eNeighbors constantly communicates with the neighborhood by automatically sending out weekly eNewsletters via email. Neighborhood champions constantly communicate by sending out paper newsletters.
  2. eNeighbors promotes and organizes social events online and even accepts RSVPs. Neighborhood champions organize social events by printing flyers and making phone calls.
  3. eNeighbors forms social groups like bunko clubs, playgroups and poker games. Neighborhood champions form social groups too, it just takes a little more effort.

Whether you have a neighborhood champion or not, eNeighbors can help keep your neighborhood connected. If you’re interested in seeing more, Request a Demo today.