Five Questions for: Jim DeRouchey, president, InfoUSA Database Licensing at InfoGroup, about local search
Q: What is the challenge for local businesses when it comes to search?
A: It's a challenge for businesses to keep their data current online. Retail chains are opening and closing all the time. What used to be a Shell [gas station] is now a BP. If people like to shop at Gap, they want to make sure they find the one closest to them. Dollar General might open 1,000 new stores in one year. Starbucks has had a number of openings and closings over the past year. They want to prevent the situation where someone is getting sent to a closed location. It is too cumbersome for these companies to fix or add their local listings for each location to each of the major search engines: Google, Yahoo and Bing.
Q: What about smaller businesses that aren't necessarily franchised?
A: Small businesses don't know where to spend their money. They used to mail a lot, buy ads in the newspaper or advertise in the Yellow Pages. Those [channels] don't necessarily work anymore. Now businesses are rethinking that, because it is expensive to mail 3,000 postcards. They need to find ways to supplement their marketing that makes sense. They don't necessarily know how to buy Google Adwords or take ownership of their profile on Yahoo and Bing.
Q: How is InfoGroup helping marketers meet that challenge?
A: We have a special team in our compilation center, updating information on these companies. A store might have holiday hours, so this is another avenue of information we need to keep current. We're tackling it from all fronts. Small business owners have also become interested in theis type of service. It's hard to manage how their businesses look on all these search providers. We also include information regarding other types of services. Do they have a car wash? Do they have an ATM at that location? What are their hours? This officially became a product called Express Update two year ago.
Q: What arrangements do you have with other companies?
A: We work with OnStar, Yahoo, Bing, Google, AOL, Mapquest and Ask.com, and we also provide all the data to Tom Tom, the navigation company. These companies incorporate our local business information into their global search products. They license our content in an effort to provide the best possible and most complete, up-to-date information. Our database is the primary source of data for them for local search. It has always been a marketing file, but it translates well for consumers to use as well. The database has been a good fit for consumer search.
In terms of clients, we have 200 chains we work with today. That doubled compared to 2008. In 2009, we'll process 200 chain files, and we'll do double that next year. Clients include Bank of America, Best Western, Dunkin' Donuts, FedEx and Shell Oil. They pay us a fee based on how many locations they have.
Q: What are some things you are working on down the road?
A: We have other partners helping us aggregate “mom and pop” businesses as well, but we haven't announced those yet. We will announce those in the fall. There are a number of companies who serve small businesses traditionally through products that help run their business. Whether it's a software company, a banking/financial services company, or other kind of company, they have relationships with small businesses. Relevant Searches, a search marketing company, is exploring this as a way to add value to the services they provide today. They aren't a customer today. There will be a lot more development in terms of offering this service online as a more widely automated product for us in the next three to four months.