These tools specifically will let users create a profile, view product reviews, and join discussion forums on local products and promotions. Part of this will include personalizing an account where users can save and share deals they’ve found, track prices on certain products, and set up email alerts.
This is an interesting move for ShopLocal, which has already been known for some clever marketing tactics, particularly with viral video. It could be a valuable addition or user retention tool for its product, which is one of the handful of increasingly important sites that focus on driving offline conversions with online search.
Essentially this makes the site part CNET, part Yelp, and part Craigslist, (among other things). And as the value of social media outlets are tied to the principles of the network effect, the success of this integration will hinge upon how well this resonates with its current user base or how well it can attract new, possibly younger, users.
Social media is in fact becoming a competitive necessity in local search, and these features could create stickiness and keep users coming back to see what deals have fallen into their price alerts, or what others are saying about local deals. It must be recognized however that getting users to participate in social media is no easy feat — as echoed in an interesting session on ratings and reviews at SES San Jose.
One of the keys is to know your audience and offer it the right tools and features. The poster child for this strategy so far has, no doubt, been Yelp in playing off the egos of twenty or thirty-something urban foodies, their desire to be social, speak out, and their general and proclivities for a social networking format.
This of course is easier said than done, and is easier to do in the restaurant vertical than others (who out there is clamoring to write a review about their plumber?). But Yelp’s strategy still beat the heck out of giving away Starbucks cards which is what some local social search sites did to try to get users to participate.
Know your audience and what they like. We’ll see if ShopLocal can execute on this formula.