Local search is huge - woven into our daily lives like nothing else. And so are the pains, though the exact cause and intensity of consumer suffering varies based on a lot of factors. There are a plenty of players who are trying to solve the 'local search jigsaw'. Considering all the action - and noise - out there, it is worthwhile to consider what exactly could be the attributes of a potential solution that could work for both the consumer and business.
- It has to be underpinned by mobile-first technology and build on existing networks and connections. Both viability and effectiveness of feet-on-the-street models is highly suspect at this stage - even if supplemented by a technology solution. Technology is not only cost-optimal but also allows users to be firmly in control using phones - ubiquitous extension of their identities.
- Information flow has to be a two-way street. Businesses treating local search as one-way of sharing business/service provider information seem to be from a bygone era. With a big number of businesses, esp. proprietorship firms, streaming into the marketplace, getting information from users is vital.
- Giving control in the hands of consumers who pay for the services is essential. This can take the form of constant and seamless feedback mechanisms and/or complete freedom and flexibility to take decisions while adequately facilitating it with a light touch and as-needed basis.
- Making it open and transparent between the service provider and consumer is essential too. The approach of having service providers sit behind a veil seems to be from times when businesses assumed that people need all the support from them to decide. In a world filled with open networks and increasingly high-touch services, the way forward in local search is also open and not closed.
- It should empower the service provider. Businesses, esp. the really small one-man-show-types, have not switched on the digital button yet and mobile-based open platform is an amazing way for them to connect with digital and mobile-first consumer base without breaking the bank and minus any significant effort.
Relentless focus and the pursuit of building trust between the consumer and service provider is pivotal for the success of any platform. Businesses attempting to use a feet-on-the-street models or working to be intermediary between provider and consumer are missing on the whole fundamental rise of digitally-empowered and informed consumer who is willing and capable of taking charge and needs the right-sized support for the same.
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