Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Turning Yellow Pages into Gold: Making Money from Mobile Search.


That we are about to witness a sea of change in the traditionally tranquil waters of business directories was made patently clear at a recent meeting of key Yellow Page businesses at the EADP Conference in Mallorca. In mature European markets like the UK, printed directory revenues are declining by approximately 12% year on year.

Meantime, digital revenues (PC web and mobile) have been growing year after year, and on a global basis, account for more than 20% of total business directory revenues. But the web growth story is one that dates from the ‘noughties’, the decade spanning 2000-2009. Today in the ‘teenies’, the decade started this year; mobile is the key engine of growth.

In fact, already 30-40% of Europeans access web services more regularly from a mobile device than from a PC. This means that the ability for business directories to deliver a personalised experience on mobile is more important than ever before.


The big question is: how do you make money by letting business directory users access the service on mobile?
Firstly, a quick explanatory note on the mobile channel, as this can mean two things: the Mobile Web and Mobile Apps.

This can seem obvious, but the distinction is important. With a mobile website, a business directory can deliver an improved experience for those users browsing through the directory’s website on a mobile device. It is a good starting point. But to make the most out of the mobile device’s capabilities (especially those of smartphone devices) mobile apps are the key.

Here, the app can make full use of the positioning, touch screen and other Smartphone gizmos (like the accelerometer that detects handset motion). By doing so, a much more unique, interactive and engaging experience can be delivered to mobile users.

Business directories with a good set of mobile apps and a mobile website can not only deliver extra value to existing directory users. They can also open up the service accessible to new groups of users (for example, teenagers with iPhones, who may have never opened a printed Yellow Page book in their lives). Business directories have the possibility of charging their customers (advertisers who list in their directories, not the end user) for this new mobile channel.

Business listings on mobile are also the perfect route towards order fulfilment –as the mobile is also the most common way of getting in touch with the business that is listed. Take the example, if you will, of a stranded person in an unfamiliar part of town that needs a taxi to get home. A search for ‘taxis’ within the Yellow Page app is the quickest way to get the number of a taxi company. And by having a ‘click-to-call’ button next to the company name, the user can dial straight through and order a taxi. This can be through a premium number that can generate shared revenues for both the Yellow Page Company and the advertiser.


 Another exciting development is the up-and-coming RFQ, or Request-for-Quote model on mobile. Here, the realisation is that business directories can add most value by linking specific advertisers with specific user requests.

For example, a plumber participating in the scheme would receive real-time requests for his services obtained by users searching within the plumbing category of the business directory. Monetising the service is carried out by charging a commission for each fulfilled order. Quotify, based in San Francisco, have already rolled out this service using web platforms, but are seeing increasing demand for delivering the solution on mobile.