WhitePages is jumping into the local discovery space with a new app called Localicious that tries to improve the process by breaking down searches by very specific neighborhoods. It’s an interesting take, though it will face plenty of competition from Yelp, Foursquare, WHERE and others.
But what’s more interesting about Localicious is that it’s launching first on Google Android smartphones, with no firm timeline for an iPhone rollout. That bucks the trend of most big app launches, which start on iOS before migrating to Android. But as I’ve written recently, a small but growing number of developers are looking at Android first, and they’re finding reasons to go that route, something that’s true for Localicious.
Android presents opportunities
Bret Moore, the general manager of mobile for WhitePages, told me that this is the first time the company has launched an app initially on Android since its earlier Caller ID app. There is a void, he said, on Android for similar apps, and WhitePages has seen good traction in the past on Android. But dig a little deeper and it comes down to the power of Android to help Localicious achieve its advertising goals in bringing together merchants and consumers.
You see, Localicious will be rolling out a number of ad products that revolve around getting advertisers to pay for each call, visit or check-in a consumer does at their store. If WhitePages can tie an ad to a verifiable action, it can charge a premium, perhaps 10 times a normal ad, because it can show an advertiser that its ad produced results. The holy grail would be to direct users all the way to the store and get them to actually buy a promoted product, thereby “closing the loop” and showing advertisers the high return on their investment.
The power of background location processing
Localicious is trying to get a good part of the way there by partnering with Foursquare to get people to check in at stores, so it can verify that they arrived. It’s got a nifty pre-check-in feature that lets users automatically check in at a location when they arrive. But it’s also using Android’s background location processing to verify that a consumer who may have seen an ad followed up by visiting a nearby store. That arrival information can be very important in showing the efficacy of an ad to prompt an action, especially if a user doesn’t choose to check in. And that’s something that’s easier to do with the Android operating system, which allows apps to run processes in the background more easily. Moore said that that is one of the key reasons WhitePages chose Android. He said he could try and stitch together a similar solution for iOS, but it would be a lot harder.
“This is one of the benefits of Android: You can follow things in the background, without someone having an app open all the time. This plays really well with the entire evolution of our search platform,” Moore said.
This kind of flexibility is attractive, especially as mobile advertising becomes more location-based. It’s not enough to deliver a locally relevant ad to a mobile user. Showing that the ad works in bringing in foot traffic or spurring more calls can really boost those ads. It may be unnerving for some privacy advocates to know that their mobile apps are tracking them all the way to a retail store, but that’s where the market is apparently going, thanks to platforms like Android.
Fewer barriers to publishing
It doesn’t hurt that Android has almost no barriers to publishing an app. WhitePages is also working on a separate app, a reverse-phone-look-up service, that has been held up in review by Apple for the last couple of months.
We’re still a ways off from seeing Android be the first platform for most developers, but for some, it’s more attractive, thanks to the platform’s capabilities.