According to a recent article by Amir Efrati of the WSJ, Google is creating a integrated marketing solution for small businesses (SMBs) trying to cash in on the consumer shift to social, mobile, local. Given that more than 95% of all US companies are classified as SMBs, small business is potentially big business for the tech empire. Google plans on combining several products and services under one banner in order to capture a chunk of the roughly 20 billion-dollar yearly ad spend by SMBs. Coming out as early as July, the initiative has been provisionally named "Business Builder."
Perhaps to lay the groundwork for such a service, Google has launched several initiatives over the past year to help SMBs to get online and develop mobile websites.¹ Interestingly, the recent substitution of Google+ Local pages for Google Places suggest that the search giant may be planning on fully-integrating G+ into the Business Builder framework.
As reported by the WSJ, Business Builder will likely include the following:
Google+ Local Pages
The online center of gravity for Business Builder looks to be Google+ Local pages. Aside from inserting a "local" button on Google+, the new Local pages offers free Zagat reviews, Google+ Local integration across the entire Google landscape (search, Maps, mobile), and a new circles filter to find reviews and recommendations within your follower base.¹
AdWords Express is Google's geo-local ad targeting solution. When people search your area for the products and/or services you provide, an ad for your business will appear above or beside their search results. Your business will also be marked with a blue pin on Google Maps, helping it stand out to potential customers.
Groupon-esque daily deal platform Google Offers gives SMBs a way to attract customers to their storefront with free giveaways or coupons that Android users can now see pop-up in real time on Google Maps.
Not much is yet known about this new service, other than that it would enable stores to deliver products to homes.
SMS-based TalkBin allows your customers to use their mobile phones to send feedback, suggestions, and questions to you in real time, allowing business owners and managers can respond to customer message immediately. TalkBin is a great way to improve in-store customer service and build brand loyalty.
Google Wallet stores payment cards and offers on a user's smartphone and in the cloud. Touted as a more secure alternative to plastic, it allows SMBs to offer customers a convenient and theoretically frictionless means of payment for goods and services.
Acquired by Google in 2011, small businesses can use Punchd to create automated in-store loyalty programs. It's also another attempt by Google to create a frictionless user experience; no more hassle with punch-cards is the idea.
Though not mentioned in the WSJ post, I have to believe that Google's new Trusted Stores program will also factor into the Business Builder ecosystem. It allows merchants who meet certain shipping and customer service performance metrics to display a Google Trusted Store badge on their websites. The metrics reward speed and efficiency: for shipping, the focus is on the number of days to delivery, and the percentage of on-time shipments; the customer service metric centers on fast customer service resolution, and the maintenance of low customer assistance numbers.
Given its comprehensive set of offerings, small business owners and marketers should keep a close eye on developments relative to the Business Builder roll-out. It'll be interesting to see the extent to which Google positions Google+ as the "hub" for all of the services within the new program.
Moreover, if Business Builder ends up offering something similar to the array of services listed, it may prove to be the silver bullet that delivers the death blow to Groupon and other would-be SMB solutions providers.
¹ SearchEngineLand, "Google Prepares Business Builder for Small Business Marketers"