Image Search Acceleration, Nextdoor DIY Ads, SMB Night Terrors

Image Search Acceleration, Nextdoor DIY Ads, SMB Night Terrors
Photo by Mathew Schwartz / Unsplash

Image, Local and Product Search Convergence

It seems like an acceleration is happening in search. Google has been rolling out many of its AI/ML-driven gains in visual search and natural language understanding to put pedal to metal in a couple of related areas. (We have a series of articles coming on Google image search.) Image and product inventory search are converging in Google Shopping and, now, Local (here, here, here). Indeed, Google is starting to reward marketers for adding local inventory to their Google Business Profiles. And last week, Google introduced what it's calling "multisearch." This combines image and text in a single query, using Google Lens with a text modifier. There are major gains behind the scenes that enable these improvements. However, Google's Multitask Unified Model (MUM), the company's more powerful successor to BERT is not yet involved.

Source: Google 

Our take:

  • There's a holistic shopping vision peaking through these updates, that combines search and discovery, text and image, e-commerce and local.
  • Part of this is driven by "AI capabilities," computer vision and query understanding. But it's also directed toward competing with Amazon.
  • Fundamentally mobile-enabled and mobile centric, this is reflected in the increasing importance of images in product and local search.

Nextdoor DIY Ads for SMBs

Last week Nextdoor launched Nextdoor Ads for SMBs, a simple DIY product that uses goal-based targeting (site visits, offer/sale promotion and messages) to create an ad in "five easy steps." It rolls out in the US in the coming weeks. The ad creation-process (see video) is guided. The daily budget range is from $3 to $10, although marketers can set a custom budget. Analytics mirror the goal options: impressions, clicks, messages. The only targeting option is by radius (1 - 30 miles from SMB location). That may be an issue for some service-area businesses and professionals. Ads are available in most verticals: Home & Garden, Real Estate, Professional Services, Food and Beverage, Retail, Medical and Dental, Personal Care and Beauty, Health and Wellness, Pet Care Services, and Family Care Services. To use Nextdoor Ads, SMBs need a free Nextdoor listing and business account. Websites aren't required.

Our take:

  • Nextdoor frequently delivers high quality leads to SMBs from unpaid user recommendations. We'll see how ads perform by Q3 of this year.
  • Nextdoor claims usage by "1 in 3" US households but it reported only 33 million weekly users. There are roughly 122 million total US households.
  • Nextdoor recently introduced a revamped product strategy that will recommend connections to enlarge networks, increase engagement.

SMB Concerns by Company Size

A US Chamber of Commerce survey finds 61% of SMBs in good health. But a new Bredin survey (n=500) offers some deeper insight into SMB concerns, from customer acquisition to cash flow, hiring and retention to technology and compliance. Issues are different by size and industry segment. For the smallest SMBs (<20 employees), "staying in business" was the top concern, followed by customer retention and cash flow. For those in the middle (20 to 99), priorities were: 1) employee retention, 2) staying in business, 3) data security. The largest SMBs (100 to 500) had other concerns: 1) retaining employees, 2) understanding customer preferences, 3) staying current with technology/new customer acquisition. Segmenting by industry (but not by size), the results were different again. Generally they were: 1) staying in business, 2) cash flow, 3) retaining customers. Managing costs showed up in the top three as well.

Source: Bredin SMB Pulse Survey (2022)

Our take:

  • While some issues are common, concerns vary significantly based on size and circumstances – perhaps common sense.  
  • Hiring and retention are chronic SMB concerns (especially now). But the issue didn't show up in the top three for small SMBs. And customer retention wasn't an issue for the two larger segments.  
  • Workforce diversity was a low priority for small SMBs, more important for larger firms. Competitors weren't a top concern generally. Access to capital was a surprise minority issue for the smallest SMBs.

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