Could Simple Website Builders Be the Next Hyperlocal Superstars?

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.

  1. October 7, 2013

    Hey, Sean. I really enjoyed reading this. I wrote a quasi-similar article this week called Rise of the Website Builders. I think you’re right about hyperlocal platforms being integrated. I also think we’ll see more website builders target niche markets.

    1. seanbarkulis
      October 7, 2013

      Thanks, Justin

  2. Broadstreet
    October 7, 2013

    Personally, I think any serious local journo will eventually want something they can customize and hire a developer to add features to, like WordPress. Or opt to use a platform dedicated to local news publishing like MetroPublisher.

    It’s the same reason Baristanet and Red Bank Green moved away from TypePad in the early days — the one size fits all approach makes it hard to please the individual industry niches that make up the whole of the user base.

    1. October 7, 2013

      I agree with you and Locable provides technology as well as training, support and resources for publishers.

      That being said, I read Sean’s article to suggest these simple web builders are potentially a killer-app for SMBs not the publishers that serve them… beyond a potential source of revenue for publishers that is.

      1. Broadstreet
        October 7, 2013

        That’s true. I did read this as addressing SMBs as a whole, but the usual context for SF is local publishing. That, and I just came back from LION conf, and news publishing tools were on my mind.

  3. skim
    October 7, 2013

    Hi Sean, Squarespace is actually spelled with just one S. Would appreciate if you could correct the company name! Thanks for including us in the piece.

    1. seanbarkulis
      October 7, 2013

      Hi – sorry about the mix-up. I’m a guest contributor, so can’t make the change personally.

    2. seanbarkulis
      October 8, 2013

      Done, made the change

  4. Paul D. Engels
    October 7, 2013

    I’m very bullish on site creators. But I see an issue: “Easy” and “Easier” site creators have been around since the HTML editing tools of the ’90’s. Here we are almost two decades later and 50% of all SMBs STILL do not have a website. Eliminating the part of the adoption curve than will likely never get one, there’s probably 30% of the total who aren’t adopting but could be. Why is that? I suggest that a paradigm change is called for. Actually, two: 1. We need to see the demise of “Drag and Drop.” The notion of building one’s own site from a choice of templates, layouts, color palettes and myriad “WYSIWYG” steps to complete the site just ain’t appealing to the end user. Automated site generation from SMB data could eliminate the “effort barrier” to DIY site creation. 2. Many millions of “instant sites” offered by service providers today lack a unique domain and relevant content. That makes them worthless in organic search. Some intrepid service providers are using SMB advertising information to update a website (custom content) and they are pushing a domain rather than the free sub-domains typically issued.

    Site creation tools have come a long way since FrontPage. But if they really met the very small business’s needs, we’d have higher adoption.

    Paul Engels

  5. Robert Gold
    November 14, 2013

    Sorry, wrong direction … look ahead I suggest. You obviously see the opportunity for value.

    Before 2040, sensors,
    augmentations, apparatuses and so forth, including those not even conceived yet will monitor, enhance and supplement humanity in areas like health, education
    and other areas of life that are important to us.

    It is obvious that these enhancements will be specific to each person, augmenting each person’s capacity. Given our current state of technological advancement and the merchandising paradigm, expressions for consumer orientation has already begun.

    Logic points to a shift from
    “products to consumer” to “consumer to products.” What might be hindering this shift is the domain of advertising.

    Now what will this shift look like? Intelligence of the consumer for the merchandiser is very difficult, whereas intelligence of entities has far fewer permutations.

    To get from today to 2040 this shift must take place.

    What gets empowered shifts?

    “If” isn’t an issue. The only question is when?

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