Read an interesting article from Sampad Swain about Local Search yesterday. Funnily enough, I had to go online last evening to book movie tickets. The preamble is that my wife wanted to book movie tickets and her first instinct was to call the theatre. Since was late in the night she decided to go online and her first port of call was, you-guessed-it, Google. She was using my Mac and I couldn’t help peering over her shoulder to see what she was up to. Her first search terms were, ‘jayanagar garuda‘ (locality and name of mall), ‘garuda‘, ‘garudaticket’ and finally ‘book cinema ticket‘. The last search led her to Book My Show. I guess she represents the search behaviour of most of the online users. An expert user would perhaps have gone to the online booking sites like Book My Show or to the Cinema Hall’s home page straight away. But for most, a generalist is still the answer for a specialist need.
The story doesn’t end here. After selecting her movie, my wife proceeded to pay for the tickets. This was at around 11pm. I know booking tickets online at 11pm on a Friday night isn’t your usual expectation of a ‘point of contact’ with your brand, but Book My Show’s server went kaput. We were told to call their land line number for further assistance. So, there you are having ‘explored’, stumbled upon the right page, found a solution for your search needs only to be falter at the last mile. I then took over and attempted to book it through INOX’s website. Same result. It couldn’t fulfill the payment option. I tried mChek on my mobile, went up to confirming the number of tickets and timing. It then gave up and reported an error. I finally managed to fulfill the transaction through Book My Show this morning. The process was quite painless but since I don’t have a printer at home, I was looking for the ‘Home Delivery’ option but couldn’t find it easily. Images of Amazon’s information-packed, yet easy-to-spot options flashed before my eyes. After I got the confirmation of booking, I found their call centre number with a prominent ‘Home Delivery’ option. Hoping that I could get them to deliver anyway, I called. To get through the menu (‘Press 1 to select Movies, Press 2 to select Theatres’ variety) was a nightmare. At least with a bank, you suffer through the menu because you want to know something important like your bank balance. Since I had already booked the ticket and could always get the ticket at the theatre with my booking number, I hung up. Some random thoughts out of all this:
– When it comes to local information needs, most of us are better off asking for help from our friends. You know that someone in your friends’ circle will know about that great Mediterranean food joint, the easiest way to book tickets etc. If any one brand has occupied that slot in the offline, it would perhaps be Just Dial. In the online world, it would still be Google.
– Local search needs include anything from looking for a plumber to a pediatrician to a restaurant. If the utility is limited to simply giving the correct number, it is easier than a service brand like Book My Show. The last evening’s experience with Book My Show maybe one-off and an exception. But for my wife – the average user – it re-confirmed her faith in doing things the old way. ‘Phone call to theatre’ or better still ‘go there and book the ticket’. I am sure she feels the same way about bookings for travel too. And there are so many other brands online looking to make a mark in this kind of ‘beyond information’ service – restaurant & food search, gifts, flowers etc. How many of them make the last leg of the search – fulfillment – easy and glitch-free, 100% of the time?
– Another related aspect is the lack of awareness of such options online. Given that Book My Show is a Network 18 venture, it is best placed to be top of mind when it comes to such services. Yet my wife’s first reaction was to Google her way through. So the local search players have a long way to go
– Apart from creating awareness, the one that would get my vote would be the one who makes the fulfillment easy. As easy and seamless as some of the iPhone Apps ( I had to bring in Apple and iPhone somewhere!) focusing on movie tickets.
– Personally speaking, I have been using the mobile versions of Burrp and Burrp TV to search for restaurants and what’s on TV (the latter more to check how the mobile interface looks). Given the choice of mobile handsets with GPRS facility, a marriage of web & mobile would be the way to go for local search.
End of ramblings. Any comments on Local Search and the way forward for players in the business?