Google is well known for its forays into seemingly exotic innovations such as skunkworks, top secret Project X research lab known for coming out with inventions like driverless cars, Google Glass and high altitude balloons for bringing the Internet to hard to serve populations.
Christine Merritt, Google’s head of business development and partnerships for its North American channel sales division, kicked off the International Franchise Association’s “digital marketing and technology summit” at is Annual Convention in New Orleans with her vision of “innovation osmosis.” Merritt argued that, “all this innovation seeps down into advertising.” Merritt is an executive in Google’s $5B channel sales division led by Todd Rowe who will be keynoting at tomorrow’s IFA morning session.
Merritt elaborated on Google’s research into the “Zero Moment of Truth” or ZMOT, an initiative to explore how people buy things online. “The way people buy anything and everything is changing,” Merritt observed. For franchisors and franchisees, Merritt offered that it is important to note that 61% of users follow brands and retailers on social networks. Merritt noted that this is important as social annotations in these networks drive a 5-10% lift in searches. Google understands this and also the broader need to provide contextually relevant advertising that understands both the user intent and the context. While this certainly applies to search in that the searches returned to two people using different devices like desktop or smartphone will be different based on the context of their search, Merritt expanded on this to say, “Google is more than search. With Google+ we tie together all of Google’s solutions including Search, YouTube, Play, Display, Offers, Local, Gmail, etc.” She invited the franchisors and franchisees to leverage the kinds of innovations now available to help engage their customers online in that in their “zero moment” of context and intent because that’s how people are buying things now.
According to BIA/Kelsey’s own research, franchisors have a vested interest in the online ratings, reviews and customer comments about their individual franchisees, leading some franchisors to limit or filter social media used by franchisees. In our Local Commerce Monitor survey of local businesses, we found that more than half (51 percent) of franchisees surveyed stated their franchisors are “highly involved” with the social media presence of their local franchise businesses (e.g., they require the local franchise to run public dialog with customers through the national corporate website).
We’ll be covering the franchise market as one of our themes in our upcoming conference May 7-9 in Atlanta, when we explore, “Leading in Local: The National Impact.”