Google Hotpot, Latitude, Offers Encompass Local Strategy
Google positions Hotpot as a fine local search tool for consumers, but the door swings both ways. Businesses that participate in the Google Places local business boosting program will also benefit from the user recommendations, provided enough people make recommendations in an area where the business serves. Google provided an example of how it can take to the city streets with Hotpot in Portland, Ore., where it has become a local favorite among several businesses, according to the Hotpot blog. The company will need to port this experiment to additional cities to stimulate interest.While this is a feature that seems two years too late for users of Foursquare, Gowalla and other services, it's important to note that, like Hotpot, Latitude leverages Google Maps, but adds a social component to help users connect at local businesses while on-the-go. Say two Latitude-using friends are wandering the same city neighborhood bar circuit. One can check-in at a local pub, and when his friend sees he's there, he can walk on over. Google is also testing its Google Offers local deals service, which allows local businesses to connect with consumers by offering them coupons and discounts that entice them to shop there. So offers local recommendations via Hotpot, enables local friend connections with Latitude and is offering local deals to consumers. Search Engine Land's Greg Sterling summed Google's strategy up best when he noted: "We can now see how Google is starting to leverage its massive local infrastructure across products. Each product or service is a doorway into others and helps reinforce usage of the overall system." However, Google must do a much better job marketing the service, as in putting the feet to the street. Starting in Portland at the grassroots level is great, but one could argue the majority of its 6,200 planned new hires for 2011 should be in local sales and not engineering.
Google this past week also added a check-in feature for Latitude, which eWEEK covered here.