Last week, Apple released the latest iteration of the iPhone, the 4S, and along with it introduced the voice controlled virtual assistant called Siri. For those not familiar with Siri, it allows users to have a natural spoken conversation with their iPhone to have it perform basic operations (such as setting reminders or sending text messages), or ask it questions. It may sound rather simple, once you use it, it really is rather amazing and awe inspiring. If you haven't experienced Siri yet, you will soon, since over 4 million people bought an iPhone 4S over the 3-day opening weekend, largely driven by this new feature alone. (When you get a chance to play with Siri, we recommend asking her the eternal question "How much wood could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?")
What does Siri mean for Local Businesses?
By adding the powerful voice capabilities of Siri to the iPhone, Apple has made it significantly easier to search on amobile device. Instead of needing to type out Google searches on a small onscreen keyboard, resulting in terse search terms like "Boston Italian Restaurant," users can now add more context to their searches by asking Siri "what's the best Italian restaurant near me?" So while local search on mobile phones has already seen significant increases compared to traditional web traffic (due to the convenience of being able to look up a place while on the go), Siri changes the game again by being easier to search, even when users are at a PC. Look forward to seeing even more traffic coming your way from mobile phones.
What should you do to prepare?
Chances are, you haven't thought much about your website in a while. For the past year or two, you've been working on getting your marketing plans in shape around Facebook and twitter. Now what do you do?
First off, as more and more of your customers will be using mobile devices to find your business, make sure your website is mobile-friendly. That means no Flash, no loud music, no fancy roll-over navigation sub-menus, etc. -- all the work that went into your awesome website re-design 5 years ago now works against you in mobile. (Shameless plug: if you're looking for an easy and instant way to mobile enable your website, read our last blog post)
Next, you'll want to make sure you're managing your search profile. This means you should at a minimum claim your business on Yelp, Google Places, etc. -- and make sure that the URL for your website will re-direct to a mobile website when users click that link on their phone.
Finally, begin thinking about getting your products and services in a structured and searchable form. If you're a restaurant, this means no more PDF or Flash based menus. As Siri on the iPhone (and similar capabilities on Android) become smarter about searching in a semantic way, the search engines behind them will be gathering more and more data on the "what" that a business offers. (We've written about this before, too)
It may seem like a lot of work, but if you're smart about it, you can make sure mobile is a seemless part of everything else you are doing for local marketing.