There’s been a lot written about the decentralization of technology in big companies. Employees today hook up their own personal iPhones, Android devices, and other smartphones to their corporate IT servers to grab mail and files remotely. The speed and adoption of consumer tech has vastly outpaced the evolution of IT’s centralized controls. As a result, organizations are decentralizing and adapting to consumer hardware cycles by storing data in the cloud and utilizing software services without deployments. Tech capability dictated by employees is a seismic shift that will forever change the world of technology.
We’re going to see a similar shift in marketing: the localization of the enterprise.
Walmart CEO Steven Quinn recently discussed this trend of localization at the annual meeting of the Association of National Advertisers. To connect with communities across the country, utilize local sources, and ultimately deliver the freshest products, Walmart store managers are empowered to stock locally grown and produced products.
So let’s say there’s a farm in Springfield, Ill., that produces fresh organic strawberries that are popular with customers in the area. The local Walmart store manager has to make a lot of decisions: whether to buy the strawberries, how many to buy, how to price them, and where to place them. And since strawberries have a very short shelf life, that store needs to make sure people know that those strawberries are there right now.
As these critical merchandising decisions like product, pricing, and placement are made locally, it only follows that basic local marketing decisions will happen locally as well. There simply isn’t time to create rich local content, route it through a centralized marketing team, and then send it back to local sources for print, display, and more.
Rather, what if the local store manager were empowered to manage his store’s communications in real time? What if he could not only promote timely products, deals, and offers without the delay of the national team, but also help drive sales for items that he has identified as being uniquely popular in his store?
As a member of the community in which the store is located, he knows its wants and preferences. And as part of the business, he understands the company brand, style, and goals.
We all know that large national companies devote extensive resources and effort to managing their brands. The goal is to have a recognizable experience at a fast food restaurant, whether it’s in Tampa or Topeka. And while maintaining that consistency, national companies are also interested in ways to authentically engage and integrate with local communities. As such, the store manager will be the person best suited to be the link between the company and community.
To both protect the brand and engage local communities, a company should give certain groups access to specific controls, much like national companies already do with merchandizing and store management. Headquarters can control national information and branding, while the local manager adds photos or specials for his or her specific store.
The manager will upload a picture of the fresh strawberries, connect it to local advertising and update the online location information the moment the strawberries hit the shelf. This also would apply to local sports merchandise at a sports store or a new agent at an insurance brokerage or beyond.
Tomorrow, the store may have blueberries. Or it may have the only supply of the hottest toy within 200 miles. Or there might be another superstorm and the manager will need to update customers in real time about the opening hours or specials for generators. After all, if Krispy Kreme store managers are empowered to turn on the physical Fresh Hot Now sign, why not the digital one, too?
Howard Lerman is the CEO of Yext. He founded the company in 2006 with the vision of improving the way local businesses and consumers connect. Yext is Lerman’s fourth Internet company, the past three of which have had successful exits.