Google expands NFC Hotpot marketing service to Austin, Texas

Google has picked the city of Austin, Texas as the second location for its rollout of NFC-based marketing services. The move follows the December launch of Google’s first NFC service in Portland, Oregon.

“The Internet giant has launched a marketing campaign here to raise the profile of its Places and Hotpot services and to try to corral small businesses to promote those services to customers,” reports the Austin American-Statesman. “Bernardo Hernandez, director of consumer marketing for Google, has come to Austin as part of the effort, which is expected to last about eight weeks. It will be staffed by Google’s Austin-based employees as well. If Google has its way, thousands of windows at Austin restaurants and shops will display a sticker featuring the Google Maps pointer logo.”

As with the service already live in Portland, the ‘Recommended on Google’ stickers being distributed in Austin contain an NFC tag. Consumers equipped with an NFC phone simply touch their phones to the posters in order to access information on the service provider via the Google Places with Hotpot service. In an interview with the Austin American-Statesman, Hernandez gave details of the reasoning behind the introduction of the service:

Hernandez says that’s a move to make search results more personalized and to give Internet users looking for restaurants, stores and other businesses more relevant information, along with comments and ratings from users.

“About 20 percent of search queries are looking for local information. That’s out of about 2.5 billion queries a day,” Hernandez said. “Whether you’re looking for a plumber or a restaurant, they’ll be displayed in Google results in a much more prominent way.”

With Hotpot, Google’s personalized search would remember your past queries, but it would also take into account ratings, from one to five stars, that you give local businesses.

The feature is enabled on the Android and iPhone Google Places apps.

Google is also seeking to change its profile from a monolithic, largely faceless company, to one with a greater presence in communities like Austin, Hernandez said.

To that end, street teams will be meeting in person with businesses and will be holding meet-ups, giveaways and other local events. The first of those was at Austin Torchy’s Tacos locations on Friday, where migas tacos were offered up gratis.

“For local businesses,” the newspaper explains, “Google plans to offer a Hotpot starter kit including the NFC-enabled sticker and several promotional items that they can order, such as fortune cookies and coffee stirrers with their own branding (alongside Google’s), free of charge. The company also plans to pay for billboards and other kinds of advertising for Austin small businesses that wouldn’t typically be able to afford it on their own.”

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