This Device Helped an Independent Pet Shop Improve Google Search Results
Let’s face it, the internet is hard on us micro-independent brick-and-mortars. Educated consumers go online to learn about what’s best for their pet and end up getting bombarded with advertisements inviting them to buy those products with the simple click of a mouse. That convenience is certainly hard to beat, and we have lost a percentage of shoppers, but the battle is far from over.
Micro independents are superior to e-commerce in many ways, and I feel the main advantage we offer is this, “You see it now, you buy it now!” If a pet owner goes online to find a solution for their pet and they stumble across a product they think will help, they will try and find it immediately. The e-commerce world certainly knows this and is rolling out more and more same-day delivery options, but with most pet food items, it is simply not feasible. We need to make sure we leverage that as much as possible, and that requires doing a lot of work on the internet—even if we are not selling items online or doing pay-per-click advertising, Facebook marketing, and other online promotions for the store on the net.
About a year ago, I noticed an advertisement on Facebook for a product “that would help local businesses compete with e-commerce retailers.” I certainly was intrigued, but I assumed it would be another pitch for making an e-commerce site or some other scheme that really wasn’t going to help my business compete with massive e-commerce retailers. I clicked through the advertisement and ended up on Pointy.com. Pointy was co-founded by Mark Cummins, who left working at Google to make local retail work better with the internet. He realized local stores were losing out to e-commerce, and he started a company to change that. The more I read, the more I was excited about this product.
Think about the way you use internet search engines to find products. If you read an article about adding omega-3 fatty acids for a shinier coat on your pet and it mentions how great “brand X supplement” has worked for the author’s pets, do you type in a store name? I’m pretty sure you don’t. Your first search will be “brand X supplement.” That search will return hundreds of places to buy it online but nothing that says, “Joe’s Pet Shop is two miles away and has brand X supplement available now!” Pointy’s vision was to change that. Its founders wanted to see brick-and-mortars appear at the top of search results, along with the online options.
Everything I read certainly made me believe it was a wonderful option to explore, but I was really worried about cost, and I assumed I would have to enter all my products into Pointy’s database, and then maintain the database with the company. So, I called the company and had a great phone call with one of its sales reps. I quickly learned I did not have to do any data entry if I had a point-of-sale system in Pointy’s network, but I didn’t have that point-of-sale system. Again, I was told no problem. The company has a device that goes in between the barcode scanner and your point-of-sale system. Every time a product is scanned at the register, that barcode is sent to the Pointy network, and that is how your store’s inventory is inputted. This device doesn’t even require access to the internet. It has its own antenna system and transmits the data via cellular service at no cost to the store. When you scan products, Pointy not only inserts the products into Google search returns, it also studies your scans to develop theories on how much inventory you have on certain products. For instance, if you’re scanning goat’s milk a lot, Pointy assumes you carry a lot of goat’s milk. If you have only scanned “brand X supplement” once in the past 90 days, it assumes you might not have many on hand. With that information, it either advises shoppers to call the store to ensure the product is in stock or indicates that the product is likely in stock.
There are no monthly fees, and there’s no data entry to worry about—it almost sounds too good to be true. I inquired into the cost and was told it is completely free if you had a supported point-of-sale system. Since I did not, there would be a one-time fee of $499, but for my store, Pointy would waive the fee. At the time, Pointy was rather new and needed stores to be on its network to be able to build the Google rankings. The company really wanted my store because it did not have any other pet stores in central Indiana using Pointy. Like most micro-independent business owners, I certainly was skeptical and continued to grill the salesman on how Pointy makes its money. He explained the hope is that Pointy store owners will be so happy with the results that they will continue to upgrade their placements on the local returns with pay-per-click options offered through Pointy. If there are two stores within a mile radius that both offer “brand X supplement,” who appears first? Easy, the store paying Pointy.
I signed up and received my Pointy box. It was as simple as they said to get going. You plug your USB barcode scanner into the box, and then the box into your computer. Within hours of scanning products, I started seeing them appear on my Pointy dashboard. The dashboard tells you all types of information about the products you have scanned, the amount of Google search impressions you have received because of Pointy and most-viewed products. As I continued to monitor the dashboard, I actually was pretty excited to see the results. While it wasn’t causing lines out the door, it was getting some results, and as I really had nothing invested, everything was a gain.
After using it for a few months, I started to see my impressions decline, and it appeared to me that it was because more and more stores in my area had started using Pointy. I decided to go with a little marketing through Pointy and put some money into its campaigns. Much like any pay-per-click campaign, I saw my impressions increase. On any given day, I might have eight organic (free) impressions but 30 paid impressions.
I am happy with Pointy, and I love the concept. It is nice to see some internet millionaires investing in options to help brick-and-mortars survive. Check Pointy out and see if maybe you can get free hardware if you do not have one of the approved point-of-sale systems. For the investment into pay-per-click advertising through Pointy, I definitely think it’s worth it. The jury’s still out on whether it would’ve been worth it to have $500 wrapped up into the Pointy box. I do know from this experience, however, that Facebook advertising works—as that’s where my journey with Pointy started for me.
B.C. Henschen is a well-known champion for pet owners who want the best in their pet’s food. He is the Association for Truth in Pet Food (ATPF) consumer advocate at Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO), serving on the Pet Food Ingredient Definition Committee, and is a director with the World Pet Association (WPA). Henschen is a popular speaker at industry events and meetings. A certified pet care technician and an accredited pet trainer, he is a partner in Platinum Paws, a full-service pet salon and premium pet food store in Carmel, Ind. His knowledge of the pet food industry makes Platinum Paws the go-to store for pet owners who want more for their pet than a bag off a shelf.