As 2013 winds down, it’s clear that the landscape in hyperlocal business has shifted significantly in the past 12 months. Between the fall of AOL’s Patch, the shakeup of the daily deals giants, the rise of indoor location technology, and the advances in marketing automation, there have been plenty of tectonic changes afoot in local.
Today we’ve asked Street Fight staffers and a few friends who regularly contribute to the site to submit their prognostications for what’s to come in 2014. (Click here to check out our predictions from last year.) Check back early next week for more predictions from some top luminaries at the companies we cover.
Thanks, as always, to our readers for your support. We’re looking forward to bringing you more great content, research, and events in 2014!
Steven Jacobs, deputy editor, Street Fight
Ecommerce companies have enjoyed little competition from local sellers over the past decade. Expect that to change in 2014.
For years, local sellers have stayed offline. Because the overwhelming majority of their sales occurred in a physical store, the systems they used to manage sales were limited to a very specific type of transaction — a customer that came to a counter and paid with cash or credit card. In order to sell online, or even sell goods over the phone, a local seller needed to adopt an entirely new system capable of supporting the workflow associated with that channel.
However, the new generation of local operations software (cloud-based point-of-sale, back-office management software, CRM systems etc.) has been built to manage a plethora of channels. Once a business’ core systems are managed in the cloud, those systems can seamlessly communicate with other digital systems — whether that’s a website, a mobile app, or a third-party like Amazon — without requiring the seller to invest additional time or technology. A click on a website, a tap on a phone, and a swipe made in-store all go through a single flexible and unified system.
In 2014, the companies that build local enterprise software (retail point-of-sale, back-office and CRM software, et cetera) will shift investment from product development to growth, causing the number of sellers using these systems to grow. That means that more local sellers will have the core technology in place to start selling online and implement other features like product search, which ecommerce firms have owned for the past decade.
Matt Sokoloff, CEO of Bungalower Media and Street Fight contributor
First off my predictions from last year still apply. While I don’t ever expect every prediction made about publishing to come true, the fact that local publishing hasn’t really moved a lot in the past year is very telling about how slowly it is innovating — especially compared to other hyperlocal sectors.
Next year we’ll see local newspapers, especially those in mid-size markets, make a strategic decision about which customer they will serve — the reader or the advertiser. If they don’t choose, their publications will rapidly fail. The decision will be either a high-quality publication that will derive most of its revenue from consumers (think Orange County Register) or a mass-market publication that will derive a majority or all of its revenue from advertisers — you know, the websites that look like a NASCAR and have more photo galleries than articles on their homepages.
The other big unknown to watch in the local publishing space is Facebook. A large portion of the traffic to news websites comes from Facebook and most users say they get their news from Facebook. This puts Facebook in a great position to shape how we consume local news. Facebook has said it wants to emphasize good content. While that may sound like good news for local newspapers, it might be bad news for the newspapers that are focused on driving traffic through commodity content and national stories.
Asif Khan, president of the Location-Based Marketing Association
As I look to 2014, I can’t help but acknowledge the rise of indoor positioning. Retailers everywhere, led by the iBeacon craze, are embracing technology that can help them track the real-time movements of customers in their stores. Watch for companies like iInside, Indoor Atlas, Mexia Interactive and Estimote to drive this acceleration forward.
Another area to watch is the connected car. Recent partnerships between Placecast and Aha Radio, and nav screen integration by Roximity, are just the start. Watch also for Google Glass in the windshield by the end of the year.
Brands that have invested in advanced social/location listening platforms like MomentFeed, Venuelabs and Expion will likewise be will positioned to deliver on the promise of hyperlocal contextual consumer engagement.
2014 will also see the rise of SMS/MMS geo-targeted text offers — messages can now be sent to customers based on location, time and behavioral data, and that will help brands be more contextually relevant. Carriers will finally start to make some money from location!
Bottom line, think of location as the new cookie — it’s about tracking people throughout their day, across places, devices and all media types.
Alex Salkever, Street Fight contributor
The first drone hyperlocal delivery service will officially launch somewhere outside the U.S. In the U.S. the FAA will finally clear a pathway to commercial drone use under limited circumstances in rural areas. Urban areas will remain off limits, natch.
Rick Robinson, SVP product at Urgent.ly and “Turf Talk” columnist
I’m thinking about two movements in 2014. Obviously others will also be afoot but I’m interested in these. First is the GeoMesh, where transcendentalism is updated to digital — dot by dot we’re all being connected. And also the old fashioned neighborhood email list — another frontier to soil.
GeoMesh: For a long time various technologies have been cobbled together to provide fairly accurate location detection of devices and their owners. We’ve got GPS, WiFi, cell networks, virtual predictive cookies and so on. All of that will be eclipsed by the ever-growing GeoMesh constructed of micro pods, beacons, nano radios and sensors of all stripes, deployed wherever people will walk and potentially buy. Micro-tracking is here (and there, and over there). Get ready to be anticipated, greeted and followed by wonderful customer service — just not in the the flesh.
The New Neighborhood: Through old-fashioned neighborhood newsletters and “listservs” the balkanization of towns and cities is on. The propellent is not just mobile but its deep penetration into the consciousness of nearly every demographic. It’s no longer going to be about keeping up with the Joneses, rather about reporting micro-news to the neighborhood before them. Startups will either try to penetrate these established email-centric bastions, or create their own. But while the terms have been co-opted by the over-smug and under-educated in Silicon Valley, it’s true that communities organically grown and authentically fostered will always win out over slick bits coming in to try and grab the focus, attention and ad dollars.
Tom Grubisich, “The New News” columnist
— A big broadcast chain, like Sinclair or Gannett, will make a major move in hyperlocal involving both content and advertising.
— Some independent sites will create a network aimed at attracting regional and national advertising that’s compatible with their community focus.
— At least one more high-profile hyperlocal will be shut down or cut back operations significantly.
— Patch will shrink to about a third of its present DMAs.
— Some smart sites will figure out how to exploit all the new features that Facebook has rolled out over the past year.
Got a prediction of your own? Let us know about it in the comments!