Coming off LSA 15 last week I was struck by a paradox. The conversations we had at the conference about small businesses, digital marketing and related sales issues were similar if not essentially the same as have been taking place since 2001 in many respects.
(Most of the sessions were captured on the LSA blog.)
A cynic/skeptic might be lead to believe that most of these issues (e.g., churn, sales challenges, market fragmentation) are going to be around forever in some form. Certainly it feels like the data syndication issues will.
At the same time there are profound shifts happening in the market that are undeniable and are changing it forever. Mobile is the big one. However there’s also commerce (booking, payments), programmatic, indoor location and the increasingly sophisticated and varied uses of location data (i.e., audience segmentation, traditional media tracking, offline attribution). Machine learning, digital assistants and new UI/UX experiences are also happening.
The amount of data now being generated alone is changing the marketing conversation dramatically. Some of these things haven’t yet “trickled” down completely to the SMB market but they’re impacting the broader market and consumer behavior for sure.
Despite the complexity of digital marketing for SMBs and related sales channels I suspect that the issues and landscape will look very different in five years. We’re probably entering a period in which winners and losers will self select by their “proactivity” or passivity. Those that can and do adopt and adapt to these technologies will succeed and others will fail.
For example SMBs that can adopt online scheduling and payments (directly or through a partner/vendor) will be more likely to succeed than those that do not in the near future. This is not going to be true across the board but in competitive urban environments this is one of those things where “other things being equal,” the mobile commerce-enabled businesses will win.
On the publisher/platform side, during the programmatic panel, YP’s Luke Edson made the bold and ominous prediction that publishers and vendors that do not embrace programmatic will simply fail. YP has been very aggressive about investing in and adopting new technologies and it will likely pay off for the company.
Edson’s comment may not turn out to be 100% accurate but directionally he’s correct. I’m not talking about chasing the shiny new object but about embracing foundational technologies that now matter.
It has taken years to get to this point. And while the conversation may look or sound the same on the surface, underneath there’s a tectonic shift happening.