Within the past year, the local marketing industry has been flooded with new technologies. Vendors are pulling out all the stops to help small and mid-size businesses acquire and retain a higher percentage of their customers. The result has been a highly fragmented local marketing ecosystem, where the average marketer is using seven social media platforms, and even more cloud-based tools to track sales, promote loyalty, and manage online reviews.
As merchants increase the number of platforms they use for local promotions, they’re relying more heavily on dashboards to correlate their digital efforts with financial successes. [A new category in this year’s Local Visionary Awards will honor the company with the Best Dashboard for Managing Local Campaigns. Click here to enter your company before September 2nd for consideration.]
“The number one thing brands and SMBs are looking for in dashboards is proof of performance and ROI,” says Jeff Tomlin, co-founder and CMO at VendAsta, a marketing platform that allows businesses to monitor and manage their brands.
Think of dashboards as the mother hen of the local marketing space, designed to give businesses a central place where they can see the real-time results of their digital campaigns.
In addition to providing proof of performance, Tomlin says merchants right now are looking for a way to see context, and they want guidance that helps educate and inform them about how they should be promoting their businesses online. Merchants and brands want to visually track how they’re doing compared to competitors in the field, as well.
“Dashboards can tie into customer lifecycle management tools to help agencies understand when SMBs are engaging with tools,” Tomlin says. “Moreover, and more importantly, dashboards can provide prescription, offer opportunities that exist and even show what new solutions are available.”
As dashboards become more sophisticated in their ability to provide context for attribution and demonstrate which pieces of the mix are contributing to conversion, they must remain simplistic and easy to navigate, says Kieran Snaith, vice president of business development at WeLink, a location-based social media monitoring and engagement platform.
“Being able to measure results with advanced reporting tools is a very important part of the dashboard today,” Snaith says. “Some SMBs and brands will want the ability to customize their analytics and statistics by applying filter sets or applying an additional query to the data set, so it is important to have the ability to get very granular with your analytics and stats.”
One crucial area is the high-level executive summary, which provides insight on important information such as mentions, engagement, opportunities, and social demographics. Snaith says users are also looking for the ability to quickly and easily engage with content captured, which is why it’s important that dashboards make it easy for businesses to communicate with consumers and push advertisements, if needed.
“We find that most SMBs and brands are looking for the ability to monitor multiple campaigns with the ability to create customized metrics and reporting,” Snaith says. “Being able to customize and organize different campaigns plays an important role in being able to identify and work on individual campaigns simultaneously.”
One of the latest advancements has to do with artificial intelligence and machine learning. Some of the most advanced dashboards are now implementing AI capabilities for real-time data categorization and to identify negative trends around sentiment.
Both Snaith and Tomlin agree that dashboard users — whether they’re small business owners or brand executives — don’t have the time to spend hours looking at data and analyzing it, and Tomlin in particular says the majority of SMBs will not take a DIY to local marketing dashboards. That’s why Snaith says it’s so important that dashboards surface actionable intelligence and insight without requiring users to spend countless hours analyzing information.
“Dashboards are making everything more transparent, so you can easily pull out actionable intelligence and insights from your dashboards in real-time,” Snaith says. “An overarching goal that many modern social media dashboards have is to save the users time when analyzing the data, [and] that is why it is important to have a executive summary type view so users can quickly and easily check the status of a campaign.”
Stephanie Miles is a senior editor at Street Fight.