A9.com, the search subsidiary of e-commerce giant Amazon, has launched a Yellow Pages/local search directory
A9.com, the search subsidiary of e-commerce giant Amazon, has launched a Yellow Pages/local search directory that features millions of photo images of businesses and buildings in major U.S. cities, including New York, Seattle, Chicago, Boston, San Francisco and Los Angeles, among others. (France's PagesJaunes did something similar, though not as elaborate, a couple of years ago).
Search results will appear in A9.com. Clicking on results lands the users on a co-branded A9-Amazon page. A novel feature, "find it on the block," allows users to scroll and take a virtual, visual tour of adjacent and nearby businesses, stores and so on. (This is not unlike IPIX virtual real estate tours.)
Amazon claims to have 20 million images of local businesses and it is inviting businesses to add or upload their own images for free. The photos were collected by driving the city blocks equipped with digital cameras, GPS technology and other hardware and software. A9/Amazon captured the images and matched them in context to create a visual representation of the street.
Amazon is also offering local businesses the ability to upload Yellow Pages content (e.g., hours, credit cards accepted, links to Web site, and so on, for free). This appears to be a serious effort to construct a competitive consumer directory, with the visual information leading the way as the differentiator from existing Internet Yellow Pages offerings.
Other features include:
- Click-to-Call: reportedly provided by eStara
- Customer reviews/ratings
- Personalized recommendations (this probably relies on Amazon's recommendations/collaborative filtering technology)
This is a very provocative and interesting angle on Internet Yellow Pages. However, A9, which has some unique features among search engines, has had very little traction with consumers, in part because Amazon has largely not promoted it. This is A9€™s central challenge€"creating awareness among consumers in an already fragmented interactive local marketplace.
But there's a paradox here. Amazon has a much bigger brand and traffic than A9. Yet the search engine is the "front door" to this new directory. One way to see this is as a bid for traffic to A9, with images/photos as the differentiator. But there€™s surely an advertiser play, which hasn€™t yet been announced (or perhaps fully thought through).
Amazon has served as an e-commerce platform for large retailers such as Target and Toys "R" Us. Amazon's zShops is a platform for and directory of small business product sellers. Could they have something similar in mind for the new IYP directory (creating a small business platform that drives offline leads/transactions)? CEO Jeff Bezos was quoted in Wired magazine as saying that e-commerce would top out at 10 to 15 percent of U.S. retail (that is likely optimistic).
Is this effort a bid to push Amazon into the offline world (given the emerging pattern of consumers shopping online but still buying offline)? It will be interesting to see how/whether consumers respond and how other IYPs and local search companies react.
Do photos of local businesses now become another layer of required content? That will depend on whether consumers take to this. And it will be interesting to see how quickly Google introduces functionality gleaned from the acquisition of satellite mapping provider into local in the wake of this.