The Local Search Association’s (LSA) Annual Conference last week brought in experts from across the globe to provide commentary and insight into trends and challenges that the advertising, marketing and search industry faces today.
Here are 10 of the top insights shared at the Conference.
There was no single theme throughout the conference stronger than the takeover of mobile devices for local search and marketing — and the inevitable shift that the industry and local businesses must make to adapt.
A game changer in targeted marketing is the accurate, real-time location provided by mobile devices. This location information provides much richer and deeper insight about a consumer that can be profiled for tastes, preferences, or desires. It can also be used to predict future behavior or purchases.
For example, a traditional singular location data point might target everyone at an airport, whereas matching that with a recently tracked location on a runway would help narrow that pool to arriving passengers since departing passengers must turn off their cell signal prior to leaving the gate and arriving passengers often turn theirs on as soon as they land. Likewise, frequent airport visitors on weekdays would help profile business travelers as opposed to weekend visitors that likely represent vacation travelers.
Cross-device use can be tracked across anything connected to the internet (including TVs and set-top boxes), opening the door for small businesses to take advantage of media channels previously only available to larger companies. For example, instead of serving TV ads to a huge mass market, ads can be served to specifically targeted viewers or alternatively served to those viewers’ mobile devices.
The power of building a fuller consumer profile grows exponentially when you layer in other devices (such as beacons and PCs) and other information (such as search history, purchase history, dwell time, frequency or repeat visits, date/time, likes, site visits and many other forms of captured information). The future consumer profile will likely be specific and robust although privacy legislation may temper the effectiveness or limit the use of such information.
Uber is the darling of mobile commerce, causing many to proclaim it is the model of the future. Its ability to leverage quick conversions and task completions have set the standard for user experience.
Yet, some argue Uber is one of a kind, pointing out the difference between hiring a driver and other services, like a hairdresser. Drivers are a much more “fungible” service, whereas most consumers are very picky about their hairdresser.
There also remain significant barriers to adoption from both the merchant side and consumer side, as evidenced by an estimated 5% of restaurants that have adopted automated tools such as online reservations or ordering. Transitioning SMB processes online often requires significant time or resource investment, and existing customer habits are hard or even risky to try and break.
Sharon Rowlands of ReachLocal also expressed concern that while on-demand services are good for the consumer at first blush, often the economics do not work for merchants, and ultimately that is bad for the consumer. It’s expected that the model will continue to evolve.
The ability to capture high conversion leads 24/7 without manning the phone or interrupting other operations is worth the time to learn new systems and integrate old ones with modern technology. And the promise of increased ROI and integration of back-end merchant systems to increase efficiency will likely prevail.
From a consumer standpoint, convenience and efficiency will also prove valuable. Automated reminders for appointments, more targeted search results like real time inventory or availability, and current hours or wait times will drive use of and demand for mobile commerce.
Yelp Now is an example of a new automation service that supports businesses using both the front end information from consumers and back-end information from SMBs. Search results can be limited by reservation availability for restaurants that have a table at 7:00 PM on Thursday or be limited to restaurants that deliver to a specific area or address based on information obtained from the business.
LSA hosted an SMB digital boot camp for over 100 L.A. area local businesses. Based off of dialogue with and questions asked by SMBs, it is apparent that small businesses want low-cost, DIY solutions. This is reinforced by the fact that 86% of those surveyed at the event utilized social media for marketing.
Yet most in the industry — including agencies, publishers, and even those that offer self-serve products such as Google — agree that, given the complexity of the space, working with a partner is recommended. This dichotomy between what SMBs want and what advice SMBs get may explain the high churn rate of small business advertisers who leave ad agencies.
A preview of a study soon to be jointly released by Vendasta and LSA revealed a direct relationship between cost and churn rate, whether that cost be direct pricing, related to the service model (DIY vs. DIWM/DIFM), or low lead value and ROI.
A number of companies are creating or changing business models around the demand for low-cost or proven value services. For example, ReachLocal is changing its compensation system to incentivize sales reps to value good-fit clients and high retention rates. Closely’s Perch platform focuses on being a resource that provides free information with strong content marketing in order to help customers identify where or why they need help.
Education is the primary funnel for new clients — even education on DIY tools as many SMBs will realize they still need a partner to do the job right. DIWM (Do it with me) solutions will offer a nice compromise for small businesses and iterative or modular services will be more attractive to those with small budgets.
Programmatic advertising offers such great efficiencies, broad yet targeted reach, and customized control of cost and audience, that some experts predict that those who do not embrace the technology will soon be out of business. The technology is good for advertisers who can access all media channels including premium inventory that might previously have been unobtainable.
It’s good for publishers, too — private marketplaces and preferred placements that required volume minimums or had exclusive access are now being sold through programmatic means because it reduces wasted inventory. By making media distribution more efficient, programmatic also saves resources that can be invested into better creative or content.
All the technology and data that helps identify and target an ideal customer is wasted if the right content isn’t delivered. As content becomes more personalized and hyper-localized, consumers will expect and only respond to content that meets this new, higher standard.
In other words, content must be relevant to the consumer and in context with what he or she is currently searching for or viewing. Examples include native ads, timely coupons or deals, and customized landing pages. Engaging with out-of-home screens and other emotional impact creative will also be more common.
This marriage between creative and technology, and understanding where and to whom ads are being served, is key to maximizing return on targeted advertising. Companies like xAd and Thinknear whose reputations come from their location targeting expertise are now closing the loop and engaging in content and/or graphic creation.
Some of the best creatives and best marketing we saw at the conference were from Yellow Pages companies.
YP’s #MakeEveryDayLocal campaign is the latest in a series of marketing efforts directly targeted at consumers that support its brand and that demonstrate its digital strength. One video in the campaign followed Hannah Storm to her favorite local businesses and told a compelling story while showing off serious marketing chops.
The Canadian Yellow Pages just released two of its award winning apps for the Apple Watch including YP Shopwise, representing some of the first Canadian apps available on the device. Both companies and DexMedia, another yellow pages publisher are embracing their yellow pages history, deeming it easier to evolve the “platform” rather than recreate it, and their output is impressive.
Space-age devices, massive volumes of data, and programmatic algorithms to derive smarter results from that data all lead to the ultimate technology: artificial intelligence. In a sense, that is what it seems we are striving for — to know an individual consumer’s history, determine his or her desires, and serve the perfect message at the right time while delivering a customized, personal experience.
In the future, personal assistants in the mode of Siri, Google Now or Cortana will know you and predict what you need before you ask it to. They will be able to complete tasks with single commands and minimal input on how, where or what to do. Personal assistants will not be tied to a device but rather use voice recognition on whatever device is in the vicinity.
Sound scary? Check out this video that Microsoft played at LSA 15 introducing Cortana for a glimpse into the future.
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