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Local Innovation - What's the Next Big Thing?

  |  April 7, 2014   |  Comments

A look at a few promising items on the "bleeding edge" of technology that could very well be the "next big thing" in local: wearables, multi-touch attribution, and visual search.

Chapter one of local was centered on business listings’ identity and ensuring that consumers seeking businesses could simply find them. Interestingly, this behavior is very similar to the early days of portal-based Internet search, where consumers used resources to "find" information, pricing, availability, etc. of items that they already knew about. This is fundamentally the definition of directional marketing, connecting buyers with sellers.

As local and mobile search continues to increase and evolve, we are seeing greater adoption of discovery-based searching. These "searcher" and "shopper" type searches help consumers research unknown or partial categories and products in more of the awareness and preference forming portions of the consumer’s discovery path.

So it stands to reason that chapter two of local would be centered on tactics that aid in increasing awareness, preference, and engagement including local listing integration with profile development and social media curating at a local level. Elements like ratings and reviews, which I have recently written about, are vital efforts to increase a brand or local merchant’s selection by consumers.

Clearly anyone who has spent a great deal of time looking over local listings, ratings and reviews, etc. can see that there is an enormous opportunity to increase the amount of meaningful content and leverage the baseline tactics associated with local to gain additional business in a relatively easy manner.

Therefore I thought it might be fun to let the mind wander and look more at the "bleeding edge" of technology and innovation to try and determine the "next big thing."

A couple of weeks ago I participated at an investor conference and one question that seemed to be asked over and over again was: What is the next disruptive innovation that will change the digital landscape?

I sat patiently listening to analyst after analyst, expert after expert proffer a veritable laundry list of buzz words that belies our industry: programmatic buying, multi-touch analytics, multi-platform, native advertising, wearable computing devises, image/visual search, gamification, etc., etc. Quite frankly, the list goes on and on. I then started to consider the list through the "local" lens and came to an interesting conclusion: Local stands to benefit and change from a large number of near term innovations if they are mass-adopted by consumers.

Now I will spare us all the sort of hype that inventors and founders of these companies seem to place in the marketing arena; does anyone remember when the Segway was going to "revolutionize human civilization"? Instead there are a few promising items that I have chosen to put into my designed experiment/test pool:

  • Wearable computing devices – wearables 
  • Multi-touch attribution – including offline conversion 
  • Visual/image search 

Wearables: Back in the 1940s, the comic strip Dick Tracy popularized a gadget called the 2-way Wrist Radio.

dick-tracy-comic-wearable

Nearly 45 years later, we now have the Pebble Watch, Google Glass, and Samsung Galaxy Gear, to name a few of the quickly emerging products in this category. From a local standpoint, there is great promise if these types of products reach mass adoption. As smartphone ownership has increased, the amount of local search has also dramatically increased. So it stands to reason that wearables being a smaller mobile device will continue to accelerate local search. Already, Google Maps are available on the above-mentioned devices. Marketers should start to think about proximity based promotion and offers. Jason Burby recently wrote a great article on this emerging tactic: "The Power of Location-Based Offer and Relevance." Get ready for ad formats that are aural in nature or very small visually.

Multi-Touch Attribution: It is amazing to me how very few marketers employ multi-touch attribution. Even more surprising to me is that large brick-and-mortar retailers that also sell online have done very little to understand online sales stimulus that results in offline conversion. Instead, today most advertisers are using a "last click" attribution model, which will almost always show that search marketing (SEO, SEM, and Local) is the most efficient online ad types. Now I am a huge proponent of search, however, consumers use a multitude of sources to discover, learn, trial, and then advocate brands and merchants. Marketers will need to better understand the relative contributions of as many, if not all, tactics they are employing. The Holy Grail? Understanding online’s contribution to off-line sales. In my view, this will be one of the largest local innovations in the next few years.

Visual Search: During the conference I was able to speak on a panel with a couple of the companies leading the way in visual search; Superfish and Piqora. As I let my mind wander to the possibilities that visual searching could help with local, I was struck with an almost limitless set of ideas. Imagine if you clicked a picture of the water filter under your kitchen sink with your mobile phone and were immediately presented with a list of local stores that carried the filter with pricing and availability. I was astounded at the examples of the accuracy that these companies can identify items in pictures. For marketers, my advice is to start thinking about how easily your products can be discovered and identified by these platforms and how you differentiate your products visually from your competitors'.

Clearly the pace of change is accelerating and no doubt exciting. But before you race to adopt the bleeding edge of technology’s innovations into your marketing program, make sure you have the fundamentals covered where the mass amount of local leads are generated today.

Homepage image via Shutterstock.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Gregg Stewart

Gregg Stewart is founder and president of 3rd Act Marketing, a full-service marketing agency and consultancy, specializing in digital solutions, headquartered in Connecticut. 3rd Act supports businesses and agencies of all sizes, including Fortune 500 companies. With more than 20 years experience, Stewart applies his successful tenured career in interactive advertising and local search to the ongoing development of digital and mobile solutions for his clients' online-marketing campaigns. Through his strategic counsel, national and local brands become better equipped to target and reach niche consumers for increased leads and sales. In addition to his ClickZ columns, additional columns can be found in the Search Engine Watch archive. In 2013, Stewart was recognized with the ClickZ Hall of Fame award.

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