I’ve been thinking quite about about local and mobile for 2014. Lots of predictions about digital marketing and trends have come out in the past few weeks. Most of them are overly broad, aggressive or, on the other end, obvious.
On the one hand people like to make bold predictions because they’re sexier and get attention. As in the past, what we’re likely see however is evolutionary, incremental change rather than anything radical (sometimes big acquisitions can be radical though). I suspect this year will be the same with “advancements” across a range of technology and digital marketing categories with local or offline implications.
In the broadest sense the major change in “local” over the past two years has been the tectonic shift to mobile and multi-platform and their implications for merchants and marketers, consumer behavior, offline ROI tracking and location targeting (including indoors). We don’t yet know how many tablets (largely PC substitutes) were sold over the holidays; however smartphone penetration in the US now stands at 65% and will likely hit 75% or more by Q4 2014. In Europe penetration numbers are comparable in the major countries.
I’ve been covering and writing about local, small business marketing and location-targeted advertising for nearly 15 years — shockingly. And despite the presence of a number of dominant internet brands (e.g., Google, Facebook, Yelp, Apple, Amazon) I feel like there continues to be opportunity in the consumer market and for B2B services providers.
Roughly a decade after “committing” to local Google hasn’t won. One could even argue that outside of Maps Google’s local strategy and execution are currently a mess. Despite a significant opportunity, Facebook is moving very slowly in local. And for its part, Yelp has raised its profile in major US and select international markets yet it hasn’t consolidated its leadership across local categories or markets.
There continues to be opportunity (even in the mapping segment) for novel, unique or highly utilitarian approaches. Indeed the local market feels more “open” to me than it has in several years. The relatively rapid and massive growth of mobile apps such as Instagram, Snapchat, Whatsapp and others showcase both the instability and opportunity of the mobile consumer and social media markets.
Indeed, Instagram and Pinterest could emerge as major platforms for local marketers this year. It’s entirely possible that new consumer mobile apps with a local-social focus or other local aspect could arise and gain major adoption. I’m not saying it will happen but it seems more plausible to me this year than in the recent past.
On the B2B/marketing side, I think we’ll continue to see advances in location targeting, local data usage and local marketing campaigns — especially in mobile. Large marketers are getting much more sophisticated about how to integrate and utilize location in their creative and ad targeting. Local and offline data will become a larger and more frequent part of online marketing campaigns. And location data will become a more pervasive element of programmatic ad buying both in mobile and online.
Privacy continues to be a major and challenging issue for everyone in 2014.
This is also the year of the multi-platform campaign. Such campaigns will also take advantage of emerging offline tracking capabilities (Placed, PlaceIQ, Google, etc). Marketers will have much more visibility on the offline and in-store impacts of their campaigns, which will really shake things up.
As you probably know I’m also very bullish on the long-term impact of indoor location as well. But we’re likely to see only incremental movement in that area this year, as more venue owners and retailers test and quietly roll out their indoor location analytics and tracking systems. A few consumer-centric standouts in the indoor location space will emerge in 2014 however.
Among small businesses I think the story is more of the same: too many channels, not enough time, considerable frustration and continued churn. This remains a hard and expensive space for everyone. I do believe however that SMBs are gaining greater clarity and sophistication about where they need to be and how to get there.
Reviews will likely continue to be the “hardest part” of local for many SMBs and marketers however.
This is the year that “wearables” become established as a device category, mainly driven by the adoption of fitness wristbands (e.g., Fitbit) and perhaps later this year smartwatches (with a fitness emphasis). Google Glass and and its competitors don’t become mainstream this year or next year. It’s still too strange and “unnecessary” a product for most people.
Stepping back again, we’ll see incremental growth in mobile payments, still mostly in a vertical context for consumers. This part of a larger trend toward “local commerce,” the blending of e-commerce transactions (including scheduling) with offline service delivery or fulfillment. In turn this is all part of the larger convergence between the online and offline worlds, including “the internet of things.”
Virtual assistants, machine learning and “AI” also will play significantly in local and mobile (in tandem with “big data”). We’ll see more local and personalized recommendations (or predictive search) based on our combined online behavior and movements in the world. (Foursquare is one of the leaders on the local recommendations front.) And while Siri and Google Now are the known entities in this segment, there’s a ton going on in the enterprise with virtual assistants. Increasingly we’ll see these dynamics play out with consumers through novel use cases (see, e.g., Expect Labs MindMeld).
The biggest changes in local may turn out to be “under the hood” or on the B2B side this year. But there remains plenty of consumer-facing opportunity as well. It’s no longer “early days” but the market is far from locked up.
Let me know your thoughts. Do you agree, disagree or want to add anything to what I’ve said?