Why data amplifiers matter in a world of omnichannel discovery

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In my October Search Engine Land column, I discussed the rise of data amplifiers — or data aggregators (such as Neustar) and publishers (such as Google) that share a business’s location data across the digital world, where people conduct “near me” searches.

I believe data amplifiers will become even more important in 2017 because of the impact of the on-demand, omnichannel consumer. To be effective with location marketing in 2017, any brand that operates multiple locations needs to make it a high priority to share their location data with amplifiers.

Data amplifiers wield an inordinate amount of influence because of their reach, size and ability to innovate. At SIM Partners, we identify the main data amplifiers this way:

  • Data publishers: The heavy hitters of the search world, such as Google and Apple, which have either built their own search ecosystems or actively shape search. Our short list of the most influential publishers consists of Apple, Bing, Facebook, Foursquare, Google and Yelp. If you want your data shared on crucial discovery platforms such as Google Maps, you had better make sure your location data is shared with publishers.
  • Data aggregators: A bit less-known outside the realm of location marketing, but they’re important because they share a brand’s data to the publishers. We tend to count Acxiom, Factual, Infogroup and Neustar as the principal aggregators.

Although both aggregators and publishers act as sources of local business information for discovery platforms such as apps, data services and Web directories, we make the distinction between data aggregators and data publishers to clarify how they relate to each other.

In a multichannel world, amplifiers are becoming more important because they are the most efficient, cost-effective way for any business to keep pace with omnichannel consumers. As I mentioned in my last column, omnichannel consumers are discovering brands across an increasingly complex web of apps, channels and devices. Consider the following:

  • Roughly four out of 10 businesses interact with consumers across five or more channels, per Experian.
  • According to Google, approximately 60 percent of online consumers start shopping on one device but continue doing so on another.
  • Consumers spend 85 percent of their time on smartphones using native apps, according to Forrester.

And here’s the challenge for businesses: omnichannel consumers expect you to be present no matter what apps, devices or channels they use… which leaves businesses with two very big problems:

  • Missed opportunities. It’s extremely difficult for businesses to be everywhere consumers expect them to be in an omnichannel world.
  • Customer experiences at risk. It’s equally difficult for businesses to keep their location data up to date everywhere consumers look for them, resulting in consumers encountering inaccurate location data and having a poor experience.

The challenge is only increasing as automobiles become more sophisticated data delivery devices, apps continue to proliferate, and businesses figure out more creative ways to respond to on-demand consumers on platforms such as Uber and Pinterest through one-click ordering and buying.

I can easily think of 100 search engines, directories, social media sites and internet yellow pages where brands need to be present, and another 30 auto-related navigation systems that form the core of the consumer discovery experience.

Put another way, the local data ecosystem is in immense flux because of the constantly evolving apps and tools that use location data. If a brand is not paying attention to its data layer — the part of the brand’s identity beyond the presentation layer, where location-related data resides — then they’ll be left behind in a constantly changing world of omnichannel discovery.

Some brands make the mistake of trying to directly manage their location data across a vast sea of tier-two directories, hoping that a scattershot approach will cover most of the search universe.

Those brands are always going to be behind the curve and focusing on perceived problems that don’t affect performance, forever playing a game of catch-up amid an explosion of discovery platforms. They’re also wasting valuable time, resources and money in the process.

The better approach is to invest one’s time more efficiently across a smaller cluster of high-impact data amplifiers. Because of their brand strength, scale and reach, data amplifiers can influence far more places where consumers do “near me” searches across multiple channels, apps and devices. Doing so, you will reap many benefits:

  • You will invest your money and resources more efficiently by targeting a smaller core of players who have more reach. The same Forrester study about smartphone app usage also noted that Facebook and Google alone account for 25 percent of total minutes spent by US consumers on smartphones, making them the two most popular destinations. (Apple also made the list of most popular apps.) Just from the perspective of time consumers spend on smartphone apps, these two data amplifiers are huge.
  • You will be more visible across all the places where consumers are looking for you and your competitors.
  • You will benefit from the innovations that data amplifiers typically develop each year, such as Google’s many algorithm changes and product updates. When Google changes the search ecosystem, you’ll be right there with them.

Omnichannel consumers long ago escaped the strictures of doing Google desktop searches. They are going to find what they want on their own terms — and where they find you tomorrow will be different from where they’re looking for you today. Data amplifiers will ensure that you’re present with accurate data any time, any place.

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