ClickZ’s Zachary Rodgers has an interview with (Amazon) A9’s Barnaby Dorfman (who appearantly led development of A9’s Yellow Pages offering).
One question sticks out for me:
“Q.Can you describe the development process?
A.We don’t get into our development process too deeply. We had some of those “wouldn’t it be cool if we could…” conversations. And that’s what Block View came out of. It started with a handheld video device and a handheld GPS. It evolved to a much more sophisticated system.
Nobody ever said you have to go out and take a bunch of pictures. Sometimes you have to go out on a limb. [We foresee a progression] similar to what happened with searching inside books. It started with just being able to see the cover. Then you could see a few more pages, then search inside the book. We’re hoping for the same trajectory here. “
For the sake of brevity (there’s so much I’d like to say), I’ll add the following to the conversation:
- As I wrote almost six months ago, “What local businesses who are using SEM [love] about the medium is its ability to allow them to fully express their businesses, at a price that provides substantially more value than Yellow Pages. An example: a local photographer put up his portfolio, references, schedule, etc. Even if the Yellow Pages could accomodate that much information (they can’t), he’d be looking at $10s to $100s of thousands of dollars! Online, he pays a few bucks a month to host.”
- There once was a start-up named Vyze.com (recently sold and converted into a holistic directory) that focused on the intersection of local search/yellow pages and video. In short, the idea was to allow service providers to upload video describing their services, showing the innards of their shop, etc. The idea is spot on (and follows logically from Dorfman’s quote, above). Vyze ‘failed’ for the wrong reasons (too far ahead of the curve and, well, no funding).
- While #1, above, is focused on the provider’s needs, the customer needs can be encapsulated in a single word: confidence.
I can’t emphasize #3 enough. Yes yes, price, value, and convenience — all the stuff we’ve been told over and over by various pundits — matters. But, in my mind, it always comes back to one thing: confidence. Confidence that I’m buying the right product or service (reviews/referrals); confidence that I’m buying it at the right price (comparison shopping); confidence that I’ll feel safe shopping their (Amazon A9 “block shot”).
Confidence drives conversion. Period. And getting “Inside the Store” will add a ton of confidence for a slew of different product/service categories.
You’re right that Vyze was ahead of its time.
The fundamental problem there, in my opinion, was too much infrastructure required.
There was also no sales force and it became obvious that building and scaling the directory would be impossible.
Totally agree with the larger point however about confidence (alternatively “trust”) being communicated by visual information.
Our most recent focus group in Denver reinforced that local consumers want as much info on a local biz as they can get, including photos.
So why not video in a few years (when all digital cameras are video-capable)?