[News] Google Acquires Restaurant Website Builder

Here’s a highlight of some of the top local-business-related news of the week:

[Website News] Google Acquires Restaurant Website Builder Appetas

News Source: Tech Crunch

This week, Google announced its acquisition of Appetas, a website building service designed for local businesses in the food industry. Restaurants can easily create sites and integrate booking services through OpenTable and ordering services from GrubHub.

Appetas was founded in 2012 in Seattle. The service has distinguished itself from other website companies by creating up-front partnerships with service providers who can help their customers close the loop with consumers online (e.g., help them make a purchase).

As part of the acquisition, Google will be shutting down Appetas’s service and transitioning customers over to a new website solution.

Key Takeaway: It’s uncertain whether Google plans to integrate Appetas’ technology with Google Sites or use it in conjunction with Search and other offerings, but its acquisition makes sense from a competitive standpoint. Yelp, Google’s biggest challenger in the local search space, has recently integrated third party services such as reservations, ordering, and deals into their business listings pages, putting pressure on Google to find a way for viewers to take additional steps when searching for local businesses online.

[Mobile App News] Foursquare to Launch New Social App Swarm

News Source: Street Fight

Foursquare recently announced that they will be migrating their check-ins and social networking functionality to a new app called Swarm. The main Foursquare app will remain as a separate local business discovery and recommendation engine.

Foursquare’s decision is based on internal research showing that users who like to check in and users who want to search for local places are not one in the same. With Swarm, social users can share their activity with their friends without annoying users who just want to discover businesses nearby.

Key Takeaway: This move from Foursquare seems risky at first glance, since splintering their customer base into two segments will likely cause some initial churn. However, creating a new app may be a smart move in the long run. With social recommendations separated out from location-based discovery, Foursquare will be able to improve the quality of activity within Swarm and become more competitive in the local search space with their revamped app. This may also open the door for expansion into sectors outside of dining and entertainment, the traditional focus of Foursquare’s users.

[Advertising News] Facebook Announces Advertising ‘Boot Camp’ For Smaller Advertisers

News Source: Mashable

This summer, Facebook will be running a new boot camp tour called Facebook Fit. This event series is designed to help small and medium-sized businesses succeed at Facebook advertising.

Leaders from Facebook, Intuit, LegalZoom, and Square will speak about small business marketing, legal issues, and finance management during the event. Undoubtedly, Facebook will also have sessions dedicated to its advertising platform and how to make the most of its tools and reporting to boost success.

Boot camps will be held in New York, Miami, Chicago, Austin, and Silicon Valley, and are expected to have between 500 and 700 attendees each.

Key Takeaway: Facebook knows that the best way to increase usage of its services is to educate its audience on how it works and why it’s valuable. If you’re new to Facebook advertising or curious to learn more, you may want to check out one of the boot camps in your area. If not, you can still take a page out of Facebook’s book and consider what you can do to educate your customers on the value of your business.

Other news catch your eye this week? Leave a comment and let us know! 

[News] Facebook Launches in-App Ad Network

Here’s a highlight of some of the top local-business-related news of the week:

[Advertising News] Facebook Launches in-App Ad Network

News Source: AdAge

After extensive testing, Facebook officially launched its in-app mobile ad network featuring robust targeting options.

The updates will allow advertisers to target Facebook users within other mobile apps using their interests, likes, and demographics information. Publishers currently in Facebook’s audience network include The Huffington Post, e-retailer Vinted, and mobile app Cut the Rope.

Key Takeaway: Facebook has been focused on mobile for awhile now, and this ad network expansion is a natural outgrowth of that strategy. For businesses, in-app ads may prove to be worth the investment—not only do they provide an opportunity to capitalize on Facebook’s rich user data, but they also have a wider network of potential touch points with consumers across various mobile properties.

[Retail News] Shoppers Willing to Sacrifice Privacy for Deals

News Source: Forbes

A new study released by eDigitalResearch this week revealed some surprising insights about mobile consumers and privacy. Of the 1300 smartphone users surveyed, 33% indicated that personalized in-store messages from a retailer would have a positive influence on their decision to make a purchase.

In-store messaging systems such as iBeacon allow stores to beam messages to shoppers in the vicinity using Bluetooth technology.

Additionally, 78% of respondents willing to receive personalized messages would feel okay with a retailer using their purchase information to create more relevant messages for them in the future.

Key Takeaway: Consumers are still protective of their privacy when it comes to web and mobile usage, but it appears that the promise of a more customized, engaging shopping experience is worth the exchange of personal data for many people. As consumers become more familiar with the benefits of allowing businesses to access their data, they may start to warm to the idea of in-store offers and other real-time marketing strategies. 

[Retail News] Square Introduces “Pickup” for Online Purchases

News Source: Engadget

Small business credit card processing service Square branched out this week with Pickup, a new service that enables customers to buy items online and pick them up in store at a pre-scheduled time.

Pickup provides small businesses with an affordable online marketplace to sell their goods: The service is available with no setup fees and a per-purchase fee of 2.75% until July 1st.

Key Takeaway: As eCommerce proves successful for retailers of all sizes, Square’s move into online ordering comes as no surprise. But will small businesses profit from this service? For anyone selling physical goods, Pickup seems like a great way to give consumers flexibility when it comes to purchasing. However, this system also removes the consumer from the usual in-person purchase flow where staff members can have more of an impact on recommendations and selections. The success of the product will hinge on its ability to not just let consumers purchase in advance, but to also discover additional items of interest as they shop online.

Other news catch your eye this week? Leave a comment and let us know! 

[News] Mobile to Drive 50% of Google Ad Clicks by 2015

Here’s a highlight of some of the top local-business-related news of the week:

[Advertising News] Mobile to Drive 50% of Google Ad Clicks by 2015

Source: Search Engine Land

A new report from Marin Software projects that Google’s mobile search advertising revenue will increase 30% over the next 3 years, rising from 19%of its total ad revenue in 2013 to 50% by the end of 2015. Last year, paid search clicks from mobile devices almost doubled between January and December, indicating a big shift in consumer behavior toward mobile search.

The report also projected that mobile budget share will rise to more than 1/3 of paid search budgets by the end of 2014 as mobile begins to overtake desktop as the dominant search marketing channel.

While cost-per-click (CPC) remained lower for mobile advertising than desktop in 2013, it rose 20.8% over the course of the year. Conversion rates are still lower on smartphones (4.4%) than desktops (5.3%) or tablets (5.5%), but that percentage is increasing at a higher rate than desktop: Smartphone conversions grew 57.1% year-over-year and tablets grew 66.7% compared to 35.9% growth on desktops.

Key Takeaway: Consumers are increasingly turning to to mobile to perform searches, and advertising behaviors are shifting as a result. If you’re planning to run paid search campaigns in the future, you would be wise to include mobile searches in your ad plan; otherwise, you may be missing out on a valuable consumer segment that tends to act more quickly on searches than desktop users.

[Social Media] Sevenly Wins Most Social Small Business Award

News Source: Mashable

Media news site Mashable recently ran a contest to select America’s Most Social Business in America. Out of 32 socially-savvy small businesses, they deemed cause-oriented apparel company Sevenly to be the winner.

Sevenly took the top title based on a number of factors, including:

  • Activity on social: The company maintains active accounts on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, Google+, Pinterest, and Tumblr.
  • Audience involvement: Sevenly has involved customers in its brands processes from the beginning, creating a culture of transparency that has remained during the brand’s growth.
  • Company mission: From day 1, Sevenly has made social causes a part of their company mission. They’ve been able to share with customers on social the impact that their $3 million of donations have had on over 1 million people around the world. Inspiring stuff!
  • Community building: The brand hasn’t just built a community of fans—they’ve been able to curate a global community of followers who believe in their mantra, “People Matter”.

Key Takeaway: Sevenly’s story reminds us that social success isn’t about selling a product, or about growing your follower base just to add numbers. Great companies bring like-minded people together around a shared interest or cause, and help them engage in meaningful conversations. 

[Technology News] Mobile Devices Help Brick & Mortar Stores Bridge the Customer Data Gap 

Source: The Next Web

Small businesses know that certain in-store techniques such as promotions, events, and free samples drive sales. To date, it’s been difficult to quantify the impact of these offline tactics. However, a new study from Millward Brown predicts that “the notion of online and offline marketing will cease to be meaningful in 2014.”

Mobile devices are contributing to 3 improvements that will help small businesses bridge the gap between offline actions and online data, making it easier to improve in-store experience and drive repeat business:

1. Real-time feedback: Apps such as OwnerListens allow customers to provide in-store comments to business owners so that problems can be addressed immediately. This prevents irritated consumers from posting negative reviews later on or missing out on valuable feedback that can help improve operations instantaneously.

2. Cross-platform connections: Mobile device usage will allow small business owners to sync up offline behaviors and online behaviors, gleaning new trends about what their customers want.

3. Profit maximization: POS systems like ShopKeep allow businesses to track consumer behaviors and preferences as they happen so that staff members can make on-the-fly recommendations that will increase profits.

Key Takeaway: Figuring out what motivates customers and what they like and dislike is a challenge, especially offline. Mobile devices are primed to help small businesses bridge the gap so that they have a clear understanding of consumer behavior both online and in person. This will help business owners adapt more quickly to meet their customers’ needs and make better use of real-time tactics and recommendations that contribute to increased profits.

Other news catch your eye this week? Leave a comment and let us know! 

[News] Small Business Optimism Is on the Rise

Here’s a highlight of some of the top local-business-related news of the week:

[Economy News] Small Businesses Optimism Hits a 5-Year High

News Source: Fox News

The latest Wells Fargo / Gallup Small Business Index, which calibrates the overall outlook for small businesses in the US, has hit its highest level since 2008, indicating a renewed sense of optimism from small business owners.

The poll revealed an uptick in small businesses reporting a strong cash flow for Q1 and higher revenue projections for the next quarter after a consistent string of quarters with declining economic performance and stability.

Key Takeaway: Although the overall economy is still facing a variety of issues, the small business sector appears to be in a more stable economic state than it has in months past—a great reason to be optimistic about the future.

[Social Media News] 53% of Facebook’s Ad Revenue Now Comes from Mobile

News Source: TechCrunch

This week, Facebook announced that it earned 53% of its ad revenue from mobile ($1.37 billion of its $2.59 billion revenue) in Q4 of 2013. This surge in mobile ad revenue falls in line with Facebook’s growing mobile user base, which hit 945 million monthly active users in Q4.

Facebook’s mobile app install ads and mobile app reengagement ads have also contributed to increased earnings, allowing advertisers to reach users within mobile apps or driving them back to mobile apps they haven’t opened in awhile.

Key Takeaway: Facebook has often been accused of being late to the mobile game, but they appear to be making up for lost time and seeing a big returns for their efforts. The same goes for small businesses: If you haven’t already invested in a mobile presence for your business, now’s the time to do so! 

[Restaurant News] Fast Casual and Fine Dining Led the Way in Revenue Growth for 2013

News Source: Nation’s Restaurant News

A new report from The NPD Group released this week showed strong year-over-year growth for the fast-casual restaurant market sector in 2013, with an 8% increase in customer visits over a 12 month period.

The fine dining market also saw a 6% increase in traffic, while casual dining, midscale, and quick service restaurants saw flat or decreased visits during the same time period.

The data suggests that growth was fueled in great part by franchise expansions.

Key Takeaway: Diners are more and more frequently spending their dollars at fast-casual and fine dining establishments. For small businesses in these market segments, now is the time to capitalize on increased consumer interest by making sure your business information is easy for local searchers to find across the web.

Other news catch your eye this week? Leave a comment and let us know! 

[News] SMBs Spending More on Social Advertising in 2014

Here’s a highlight of some of the top local-business-related news of the week.

[Advertising News] SMBs Plan to Spend More on Social Media Advertising in 2014

News Source: BizReport

This week, Ad-ology released a new report indicating that 25% of small businesses already active on social media plan to spend more of their marketing budgets on social advertising in 2014.

The majority (80%) of socially-active SMBs also plan to spend the same or more on social marketing this year.

The same report also showed that 31% of SMBs don’t have a dedicated website for their business, and that only 30% who do have optimized their site for mobile viewers.

Key Takeaway: It’s no surprise that small businesses are investing in social. With several new social ad formats rolling out last year, there are more options than ever for social advertising, and campaigns are flexible for a wide range of marketing budgets. As social ads become more sophisticated, the ROI for SMBs is improving as well. Are you planning to invest in social advertising this year?

[Social Media News] Facebook Launches Trend Topics Feature on Web

News Source: TechCrunch

Last week, Facebook officially launched a redesigned Trending section on its web-based homepage for US users. The updated design shows a personalized list of trending keywords and a brief explanation of the news associated with them.

Clicking on links in this section will take users to a customized page with mentions by Friends, Pages, and public Posts.

Key Takeaway: This updated Trending feature falls in line with Facebook’s recent focus on highlighting high-quality news stories. If you’re posting about a trending topic on your business’s Facebook Page, you’ll have the chance to be included in the results page for that topic and gain more exposure for your business. This is just one more reason to be actively posting valuable, relevant content on Facebook. 

[Economy News] New Study Shows Brighter Future for Entrepreneurs

News Source: Business News Daily

A new study by the Kauffman Foundation indicates that starting a new business may be easier in 2014 than it has in the past few years:

  • Only 28% of respondents said that lack of access to credit was a setback to them when getting their business of the ground (versus 45% in 2012).
  • Small businesses appear to be creating more new jobs as well: Businesses employing 1 to 4 people increased from 25% in 2012 to 27% in 2013.
  • The number of small businesses with revenues exceeding $100,000 annually grew 4% between 2012 and 2013.

Key Takeaway: The economy has been tough on businesses of all sizes the past few years, but the climate is looking up in 2014, for both entrepreneurs who are looking to start a new business and current small business owners.

Other news catch your eye this week? Leave a comment and let us know! 

2013 in Review: Small Business News

2013 saw many changes on the small business front, and 2014 is poised for even more rapid change. Here’s a look back at some of the major news from the past year covered on the SinglePlatform blog.

Restaurant Tech News

In 2013, restaurant technology advanced most notably on the payment processing and reservation/POS fronts. Industry front-runners such as Square and OpenTable made product improvements, and big dog Apple entered the arena with a reservation system patent request. It’ll be interesting to see whether specialized companies remain on top in 2014, or if giants such as Apple change the game in the coming months.

Social Media News

For seasoned social media networks, the news in 2013 centered around improvements and new features. Twitter, Foursquare, LinkedIn, Facebook, Google+, and Pinterest all introduced new functionality and updates. Last year also confirmed that the SoLoMo (social local mobile) movement is still going strong as neighborhood network Nextdoor received another major round of funding.

Retail News

As the economy began to bounce back in 2013, retail sectors saw more activity. In terms of technology, Apple led the way with highly targeted in-store recommendations; several other companies also introduced location-based recommendations in a variety of formats.

Advertising News

Social reigned supreme in terms of new advertising formats in 2014. Foursquare, Google, and Twitter all launched new ad types, giving users the ability to better target users and provide content in a more engaging format than traditional banner ads.

Local Search News

There was much more local search news in 2013 than was covered on this blog, but two big highlights made our list: Google’s new customer data map feature, and the launch of start-up Openbay.

  • Google Introduces Maps Engine Pro to Help Small Businesses Visualize Customer Data
  • Meet Openbay, the New OpenTable for Auto Repairs

Franchise Sector News

In 2013, franchises saw greater job growth than the overall private sector, and they’re projected to see even more success in 2014 as consumers’ economic confidence returns.

[News] Apple Launches iBeacon Technology

Here’s a highlight of some of the top local-business-related news of the week:

[Retail News] Apple Launches iBeacon Tech to Target in-Store Shoppers

News Source: Digital Trends

Shoppers in every U.S. Apple store will now receive informational messages on their iDevices via iBeacon, Apple’s new location-based technology. iBeacon can be used to send product details, reminders, or event invites depending on a consumer’s location in the store.

Some messages are general to the store itself; others are specific to a particular product aisle, wall, or demo table.

Macy’s has also begun to pilot iBeacon technology in its New York and San Francisco stores to present discounts, recommendations, and other information to its shoppers.

Key Takeaway: This type of location-based targeting may become the future of in-store shopping. iBeacon and other similar technologies will provide businesses with the ability to give additional guidance and information as shoppers browse, thereby improving engagement and conversions.

[Payments News] Square Releases Thinner, More Accurate Card Reader

News Source: Entrepreneur

This week, Square released a new version of its credit card reader that’s more accurate and twice as thin as the previous version.

The updated device also comes with an audio jack that makes it compatible with more mobile devices.

New users who sign up for a Square account will automatically get the new reader; it will be available for purchase in-store sometime next year.

Key Takeaway: Mobile credit card reader companies are making strides to provide a better user experience for small businesses, offering enhanced functionality and performance for their percentage of earnings. If you aren’t accepting credit cards currently, you may want to look into your options again in 2014.

[Advertising News] New Google+ Ads Won’t Run on Google+

News Source: Mashable

On Monday, Google announced a new type of display ad called +Post ads. These ads are based on Google+ posts, but will not run on Google+ itself; rather, the ads will run in Google’s extensive display network of over 2 million sites. Social annotations such as Comments and +1s will be displayed as part of the ad.

+Post ads can be based on any type of Public Post a business creates, including photo, video, or even Hangout Posts. This type of format goes head to head with Facebook and Twitter’s Sponsored Post ads.

A handful of businesses, include Toyota and Ritz, are beta testing the format right now; all businesses will have access starting in January.

Key Takeaway: Businesses advertising on Google now have an additional format to try. If you have an active Google+ Page and are running Google ad campaigns for your business, you may want to consider throwing this new social format into the mix.