For local media looking for new revenue streams, Local Thunder's offers a stand-alone shopping mall that includes a variety of lead generation tools for SMB's.
“We provide a standalone shopping channel,” says Mic Harris, vice president of sales for Local Thunder. “It doesn’t need to reside on their content site. This is a place to go that’s pure shopping."
Each business gets a "showcase page" which includes text, pictures and/or video, with e-commerce and opt-in e-mail campaign capability. The front of the site is a directory of local businesses offering coupons, discounts and gift certificates. Shoppers are able to contact businesses directly, download and
print coupons or securely buy gift certificates online.
The company suggests a retail charge to businesses of $250 to $450 a month for a showcase depending on the affluence of the market and the inherent traffic of the media’s site which "powers" the mall.
Since contracts for each page are six and 12 months, annual contracts stay in the $4000 to $6000 range. The accounts are easy for sales representatives to maintain, since the back end is almost entirely handled by Local Thunder.
Local Thunder charges its resellers, mostly local media companies with legacy sales forces, a set fee per page, which varies (”lets say it $75 a month”) and includes full back-end services, such as reaching out to new customers to build, maintain and host the site, plus training and support. Customers can swap out pods as often as they want at no charge.
Selling SMB's a web page in addition to their own site is becoming increasingly common, especially when these pages sometimes rank higher in the search engines than their own site.
“Before the sales call, go look at their site on the internet. Google the key words so you can tell them where it comes up. If it’s on page ten, and they know they are not showing up well, we tell them, be part of my shopping mall. Or if they don’t have a web site its easy,” Harris says.
“We build dynamic showcases that can tie into an advertising campaign. If I had six really good sales people I would say take whatever works and see if you can get another $200, by amplifying the buy, ” Harris says.
“We go out and say to the sales people let’s go out and be a hero. Find a point of pain, create a pod. Find a point of pride, create a pod. Don ‘t give them a pre-packaged showcase right up front.”
One successful case is KOAM-TV in Joplin, MO, which launched in April, 2009 and signed up 42 new advertisers in the first few months.
Local Thunder as originally called RedShopper in 2002, as an online shopping mall created in Portland, Maine, and tried to expand by purchasing newspaper, radio and television ads.
“About three years ago, a light bulb went off and we realized that media can promote their site better than we can buy promotions,” Harris says.
Asked how well the “showcase” pages fare in the search engines, Harris says the search power improves as the network grows. A partnership with Local.com, a leading yellow pages style directory also helps. Basically, Local.com lets partners use the directory product on their content site. Media companies can then package a featured listing into advertising bundles. In some markets, a selection of links from Local.com’s directory also appears on the shopping mall page, filling in categories and creating more links to power search.
The author, Alisa Cromer is publisher of a variety of online media, including LocalMediaInsider and MediaExecsTech, developed while on a fellowship with the Reynolds Journalism Institute and which has evolved into a leading marketing company for media technology start-ups. In 2017 she founded Worldstir.com, an online magazine, to showcases perspectives from around the world on new topic each month, translated from and to the top five languages in the world.