Bing may be lagging behind Google in terms of local traffic, but the Bing Business Portal (BPP), which launched back in April, offered a number of important features lacking in Google’s local business tools. And now Bing has released a new set of tools for BBP that will widen that gap even further.
BBP has been offering basic tools for Deals since its release, but up to now these have been simple, straightforward dollar-based or percent-based discounts for single customers. Now, local business owners can create Group Deals in BBP that trigger only when a specified number of customers participate. BBP lets the business owner create the deal and spell out all the terms and requirements.
Bing is splitting revenue for Group Deals straight down the middle with small business owners. This is the same split that Groupon has been offering for some time (although some businesses have apparently been able to negotiate a better rate).
Once a business owner puts together a group deal and submits it to Bing, he or she will be contacted within three days by a Bing “city manager,” who will discuss the deal and offer suggestions on how it may be improved, if necessary. Group Deals is currently available in 12 markets, but Bing intends to roll out the service nationwide.
Punchcard Loyalty Program
The Punchcard Loyalty Program lets local business owners implement a “virtual punchcard” system to reward loyal customers. Customers who own smartphones can join the program by scanning a QR code. Once they’ve joined, these customers can rescan the QR code on each subsequent visit or purchase to get a “punch” on their virtual card.
When the business owner uses BBP to set up a loyalty program, Bing automatically generates two PDFs: one is a sign with the QR code to be posted in the business, and the other is step-by-step instructions for the merchant to share with his or her employees. BBP also offers print options for posters, table tents, and other promotional items.
The process still has a few hiccups. Not all customers have smartphones, and those that do might be a little reluctant to hand their phone over so a business employee can process the punch. The Punchcard Loyalty Program is currently only available with Group Deals, but Bing says they’ll consider breaking it out into its own tool if there’s enough demand from merchants.
Although Bing’s local business tools are far more flexible and robust than those offered by Google, BBP is still lagging behind in analytics and data that show how customers are interacting with the local listing. “On the other hand,” writes Matt McGee in an article on Search Engine Land, “the Google Places dashboard tells business owners how often their local listing was displayed, how often ‘actions’ were taken (clicks to the business website, requests for driving directions) and offers a neutered list of search queries that led the listing to appear in search results. The data is far from great, but it’s something—and it’s more than Bing provides.”