Could Simple Website Builders Be the Next Hyperlocal Superstars?

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fingersWith hundreds of hyperlocal technology platforms out there vying for small business marketing dollars, it might be difficult to guess which one will be the next multi-billion dollar platform to emerge. Daily deal companies have already come and gone; clear leaders have emerged in the business listing and review sites; and Google dominates across the board in local. So where is the big opportunity now in hyperlocal? You might be surprised by the likely answer. Assuming they play their cards right, simple website builders like Wix, Weebly or Squarespace — not the traditional hyperlocal platforms — have the best shot.

The Hyperlocal Challenge
It’s no secret that a majority of small businesses are far behind the curve when it comes to building an online presence and participating in hyperlocal online marketing. Check out this recent study from Boston Consulting Group, which shows that small businesses only spend 3% of their marketing budgets online while larger businesses spend nearly 15%.

For many small businesses, the extent of their current online ambition is just a simple website. They feel like once they have this website, or online footprint, they’ll be right where they need to be in today’s digital age. This, the most basic of goals, coupled with their lack of online marketing prowess suggests that most small businesses simply don’t understand the breadth of tools available to them and the huge value hyperlocal online marketing platforms can provide them.

This means that hyperlocal online marketing platforms really only have two ways to scale: 1) build out a large salesforce to try and educate these small businesses about their company’s value proposition, and/or 2) work with resellers to provide a white label solution of their technology to then offer out to preexisting small business customers.

The Opportunity
With that in mind, the emergence of simple website builders like Wix, Weebly, Squarespace and even Go Daddy have made it extremely easy for small businesses to create that online presence they already know they need.  This need for a website is a huge opportunity, and those companies that can provide them with a simple site can potentially grow very quickly.  These website builders have an inherent scale that relatively niche hyperlocal online marketing platforms simply can’t replicate. They can and should become the gatekeepers between their small business customers and the many valuable, yet “non-essential” hyperlocal platforms.

The seemingly obvious next step for simple web builders is to partner with hyperlocal platforms to cross-sell their solutions to small businesses.  Eventually, the hyperlocal platforms that prove the viability of their product amongst the website builders’ customers will become perfect acquisition candidates.

How Incorporating Hyperlocal Platforms Can Increase Value
These simple website builders have a major opportunity to provide a full-service online marketing solution for small businesses. Currently these companies charge about $100-150 per year per customer for their simple-website tools and hosting. But if they then begin to educate the small businesses on valuable hyperlocal platform add-ons like e-mail and text marketing solutions, loyalty based platforms, SEM and analytics tools, there’s real opportunity to double, triple or quadruple their revenue.

This pending shift isn’t just speculation. The website builders are already beginning to act on this opportunity. Go Daddy is actively acquiring hyperlocal platforms and small business tools to provide additional solutions for small businesses. Wix has launched an App store and has begun adding business tools to help small business with their online marketing. As more competition arises in the simple website builder category, these firms will need to differentiate themselves by providing valuable service offerings beyond just the websites themselves, and hyperlocal marketing tools are just the answer they’re looking for.

sean barkulisSean Barkulis is co-founder of UPlanMe, a marketing technology platform that helps local business navigate the hyper-fragmented online marketing space. He is also author of “How to Market Your Business Online.” He can be reached via Twitter at @SeanBarkulis.