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Introducing: A Smarter Man Than Me
Well, that went better than expected.
I had a great back and forth with AJ Kohn on this issue.
Hopefully, you’ve come across some of his writings and SEO analysis before, but if not, I’d highly recommend taking some time to read his Algorithm Analysis In The Age Of Embeddings article (Nov 2018). It’s a brilliant piece of work.
Maybe I just got off of work, like millions of other non-nine-to-fivers. Maybe I was running around with my family all day and didn’t get my errands done. Maybe I was feeling too sick to appear in a public grocery store wrapped in the ratty throw from my sofa.
And now, most of the local shops are closed for the night and I’m sitting here, taco-less and sad.
But what if it didn’t have to be that way? What if I could search Google and find a kiosk just a couple of blocks away that would vend me solutions, no matter what time of night or day?
Something old is becoming new again, just like home delivery. And for your agency’s local business clients, the opportunity could become an amazing competitive advantage.
The automat was invented in Germany in the late 19th century and took off in the US in the decades following, with industry leader Horn & Hardart’s last New York location only closing in 1991. These famous kiosks fed thousands of Americans on a daily basis with on-demand servings of macaroni, fish cakes, baked beans, and chicory coffee. The demise of the automat is largely blamed on the rise of the fast food industry, with Burger Kings even opening doors at former automat locations.
A couple of weeks ago, I was watching an episode of my favorite local SEO news roundup in which Ignitor Digital’s Carrie Hill mentioned a meat vending kiosk. I was immediately intrigued and wanted to know more about this. What I learned sparked my imagination on behalf of local businesses which are always benefitted by at least considering fresh ideas, even if those ideas are actually just taking a page from history and editing it a bit.
What I learned from my research is that the Applestone Meat Company is distinguishing itself from the competition by offering a 24/7 butcher shop via two vending installations in the state of New York. They also have a drive-up service window from 11am–6pm, but for the countless potential customers who are at work or elsewhere during so-called “normal business hours,” the meat kiosks are ever-ready to serve.
CEO Joshua Applestone says he was inspired by the memory of Horn & Hardart and he must be one smart local business owner to have taken this bold plunge. The company has already earned some pretty awesome unstructured citations from the likes of Bloomberg with this product marketing strategy and they’re planning to open ten more kiosks in the near future.
But Applestone isn’t alone. A kiosk can technically just be a fancy vending machine. Check out Chicago startup Farmer’s Fridge. They recently closed a $30 million Series C round led by one-time Google CEO Eric Schmidt’s Innovation Endeavors. Their 200+ midwestern units provide granola, Greek yogurt, pasta, wraps, beverages, and similar on-the-go fare, and they donate leftovers to local food pantries.
Americans have long been accustomed to ATM machines. DVD and game rental stations are old news to us. We are nowhere near Japan, with its sixty-billion-dollar-a-year, national vending machine density of one machine per 23 citizens, and its automated sales of everything from ramen to socks to umbrellas. Geography and economics don’t point to the need to go to such a level in the US, but where convenience is truly absent, opportunity may reside. What might that look like?
A Reminder About The “Echo Chamber”
One other bit of feedback that came up in the Slack and in AJ’s second contribution, which I thought was worth mentioning, was a comment Kevin Indig made about the risk of an “echo chamber”.
This is something alluded to, albeit briefly, in the original post. It’s definitely a real risk.
When you look at how sites like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are specifically programmed to create these inward facing communities, I don’t see any reason why it would be different for Google and search engine results.