It’s always with great anticipation that I open up Mary Meeker’s annual Internet Trends Report.  The report always includes some really interesting data that helps me understand how the Internet and technologies associated with it are changing and there are always several big themes that create new foci for the year ahead.   This year is no different and I thought I would share some of those takeaways in the context of the local marketing industry.  Arguably how the Internet affects local commerce was one of the biggest themes this year and that starts with mobile…

The Impact of Mobile is Just Beginning.  It Will be Massive and Tablets Will Lead the Way.

Tablet growth continues to be a huge opportunity.  They will be adopted in the enterprise and increasingly replace smart machines everywhere in the workplace.  We are seeing this with point-of-sale systems like Clover, Shopkeep and Revel; ordering systems at one of my favorite pizza places, Pizza Vinoteca; supply chain management systems; everywhere.  And so they should.   They are more intuitive than the machines we use today.
Mobile Tablet Growth

Local marketing tools, platforms and services must be available on tablets and co-exist on the app ecosystems that are developing on POS systems.  That means being speedy on a wireless network with simple interfaces to quickly take action.   Have you seen how good LocalCast is on a tablet?  It’s just plain awesome (sorry to brag, but we were ahead of this one).  It means that a local business owner or marketer can quickly respond to social media and reviews, see how marketing metrics boost their business or post a special or LocalPost, and with a push of button, published it everywhere online.  All while finding a free minute or two between customers or shifts.

Mobile Advertising Is Growing Rapidly and Evolving to Be Local

If you go to as many local marketing conferences as I do, you know that mobile is nothing new.   My favorite stat is from Borrell, which predicted that 88% of all local online advertising would be delivered to a mobile device by 2016.  I have also read headlines that say “Location is the new cookie,” “mobile is local,” and just put out a webinar on how half of your local marketing should be focused on mobile.  We are big believers in mobile.  That said, despite massive investment, the industry still does not have a clear answer as to how people want to interact with mobile ads.   Increasingly, we see it is based on offers and promotions leading to a mobile-friendly conversion page, but we expect more innovation here in the coming years to truly make the most of the mobile opportunity.
Mobile Advertising

Local Services Are Being Re-Imagined Around Creating Demand Through Convenience

The whole industry is talking about Uber first and foremost with valuation discussions north of $17 billion in their latest round.   Creating a marketplace of service people that are more easily tracked, more easily paid for with a consistently excellent experience.   But the notion of creating a better service experience over the Internet and Mobile Apps is widespread from food ordering services like GrubHub and Seamless, AirBNB revolutionizing the hospitality industry and services for repair like SevaCall or in-home massages like Zeel. Across a broad range of industries, the costs of marketing and inventory will be absorbed by marketplace aggregators that offer greater convenience to the consumer.
Reimagining Local Services

Houzz is a great example of this and combining all the elements of home design and renovation to own the complete experience from design ideation to service provider selection.
Houzz Local Marketplace

Social Messaging is Moving to Greater Frequency to Fewer Number of People

While Facebook and Twitter are good at communicating to large groups of individuals, increasingly social networks are developing that are more personal and more reflective of our real world social affinities to each other.  It’s the evolution of Google Circles’ idea that communications should be different to different groups, but just managed by service rather than by circles.
Social Media Evolution

Increasingly, local marketing efforts will evolve to more highly personalized messaging to specific segments of customers or even 1-to-1 messaging.   Multi-location business should be establishing more direct connections from specific locations to their customers via location-specific social media accounts and email lists.  The personal touch is key.  See Top 4 Trends in Digital Marketing.

Apps Are Fragmenting to Core Service Layer Utilities

Mobile apps are increasingly becoming simpler, trying to win as a core utility rather than trying to bundle in multiple functions to solve a more holistic need.  The ideal example of this is in the local marketing space as FourSquare recently split into FourSquare for local discovery and Swarm for check-ins with friends.  This is increasingly a smart strategy especially as services try to own a key data set, such as local check in data or local ratings and tips.
Mobile App Fragmentation

Visual Sharing Services Are Shaping Social Media and Commerce

Instagram user growth has flattened but sharing is up and it is the leading service in visual web social sharing.  Increasingly, I am hearing a lot of feedback about the popularity of Instagram in local marketing and Instagram will be a key part of our Social Inbox.  Images are easier to share and create a brand impression and having a good set of photos of your business, your services and your products will help a business take advantage across all of the new channels, as well as Facebook and Twitter.

Visual Social Media GrowthPhoto Sharing Network Growth

There Are Many New Opportunities to Take Advantage of “Big Data”

Big data processing mixed with sensors and user submitted data is creating new opportunities to find patterns and present better data to both consumers and local businesses.  Yelp and Angie’s List of course is a great example of user generated content providing massive new data.  Recently I read that NY Department of Health is trolling Yelp reviews to identify potential issues so that data can be repurposed for more than consumer applications.

Increasingly, that same data is going to be used to help local businesses better target their campaigns, identify customers or understand what marketing efforts work for businesses like theirs.   With the exposure of financial data, especially when mobile wallet transactions can be tracked to the point-of-sale, real ROI can be tracked industry-wide, providing new insights.  And companies like Placemeter, Euclid and Monolith are trying to become the Google Analytics of the physical world, providing yet more data on what happens on the fronts of retail transactions.

Data-tagging is Crucial to Making Sense of What’s Online

There has been a lot of focus on making local listing data more accurate as over half of local business listings have errors on them.  Data services like Infogroup, UBL, Localeze, Moz and many more are used to aggregate data at major services like Google, Yelp, YP and more.  It’s a mess.   But while it’s still a large issue (run your local listing report here), the future will be about more than basic business data, but more complex data like events, products, inventory, sales / promotions / deals, etc. all properly tagged so they can be picked up by third party services like Google to quickly help consumers find what they are looking for.   Increasingly, local marketing systems will have to aid how local, physical businesses can be represented online easily across many different channels.
Data tagging

So there you go.  What do you think?  Do you agree with these key trends?  Far off or happening now?   What’s missing?  Which do you think are the most important to the local marketing industry?   Let us know!