How should businesses think about location marketing in 2016?
With more than 50 percent of all computing currently being done on mobile devices, I believe location marketing is on the cusp of exploding into something new: Becoming the foundation for all marketing.
The increasingly strategic value of location data and the strength of mobile will make local marketing more of a foundation of all of marketing. Here are six key trends shaping the local marketing landscape in 2016:
For quite some time, businesses have treated location data — such as their names, addresses and phone numbers — as a passive asset that protects their brands. Keep your location data accurate, and you make it easier for searchers to find you.
But brands are realizing that data aggregators such as Localeze and publishers such as Apple and Foursquare can be powerful partners to amplify location data across the digital world where customers live, search and shop.
As a result, businesses have a new imperative: to make their data more accessible by unleashing it through relationships with major publishers and aggregators, as well as carefully curated vertical market platforms.
According to SIM Partners proprietary research, enterprises that improved the accuracy and reach of their location data by just 20 percent saw traffic to their location pages increase up to 450 percent and on-page action conversion rates increase by 216 percent.
Google adding local searches to their recently released Search Quality Ratings Guidelines, releasing a Google My Business API and saying that local knowledge graph results will soon be editable, all point to the fact that local search is getting a lot of attention at Google HQ at the moment.
I suspect that the drop of local business information from Google+ is the first of many large disruptions from Google in the local search space.
Businesses are discovering how apps such as Periscope and Snapchat can support advertising and direct response at a national level. Dunkin’ Donuts recently included Snapchat as part of a promotion to celebrate National Coffee Day. Taco Bell used Periscope to promote a biscuit taco giveaway across its locations.
National enterprises have the muscle to measure the results of these campaigns and adapt them for even more targeted audiences, which is where local marketing becomes more relevant. We’ll see the emergence of more sophisticated local marketing to capitalize on regional differences in demographics, seasons and local events.
To take advantage of the value of micro-platforms, businesses need to syndicate their location data more aggressively to the aforementioned data amplifiers that share their data with these apps.
In 2015, beacons were the darling of location marketing, with big brands such as Target announcing national implementations designed to share more meaningful content with shoppers through their mobile devices. Business Insider predicted that beacons would directly influence $4 billion in in-store sales in the United States in 2015, a figure that would increase by tenfold in 2016.
But early adopters are already discovering the drawbacks of beacons, which include limited range and high maintenance, especially for brands with hundreds and thousands of locations.
In 2016, brands will take a more measured approach toward beacon adoption as they weigh other options to generate in-store traffic and sales, including GPS and emerging technologies such as the IndoorAtlas indoor positioning system (IPS), which relies on a building’s “magnetic signature” to help shoppers locate products and other people inside large buildings such as shopping malls.
Beacons will not go away, but businesses will begin to target their use more selectively to offer targeted content to shoppers in-store.
Just as businesses are getting savvier about the limitations of beacons, they’re also beginning to wake up to the power of mobile wallet offers to create customers at the local level.
According to mobile marketing provider Vibes, more than half of consumers would like to receive mobile wallet content on a weekly basis, and 70 percent of consumers will save an offer to a mobile wallet when presented with the option.
Consumer acceptance of mobile wallets, coupled with the widespread uptake of Apple Pay, has already inspired businesses such as Pep Boys to create compelling mobile wallet offers that increase foot traffic and sales.
With 80 percent of “near me” searches occurring on mobile devices, businesses are finding more creative ways to create contextual content that turns searchers into shoppers.
But what will help mobile wallets take off in 2016 is their increasingly diverse applications, ranging from coupons to loyalty programs to mass transit.
Google will continue to be the 800-pound gorilla of search, but we’ll also see Apple and Facebook continue to encroach upon Google.
Consider how Apple is making search more predictive and smart through iOS 9. In an iOS 9 world, Apple Search has become a far more powerful search tool by drawing up a number of local data sources, including native app content.
By proactively serving up suggestions for nearby things to do and buy before you even conduct a search, Apple Search is fast becoming an intriguing pathway for location marketing.
In the meantime, Facebook continues to strengthen itself as a local search platform. The day is fast arriving when Facebook will serve up suggested local enterprise content next to personal conversations and queries about where to go and what to buy. I see opportunities for Facebook to monetize its business directory and make use of personal recommendations that people make to each other.
Brands need to pay closer attention to how consumers are using alternatives to Google and build relationships with these publishing alternatives.
To flourish with local marketing in 2016, enterprises should broaden their local search ecosystem to include apps such as Snapchat, treat their location data as a scalable asset and pivot to the needs of mobile consumers. Adaptable brands will win with local marketing in 2016.