Hyperlocal Execs’ 2014 Predictions (Part One): Moz, Foursquare, Booker

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crystal-ball1With 2013 nearly in the can, it’s clear that the sands have shifted significantly in the hyperlocal space in the past 12 months.

As we have for the past couple of years, Street Fight recently asked a number of hyperlocal luminaries to weigh in with their predictions for where local is headed in 2014. We’ll be running their responses in two installments, today and tomorrow. You can also check out our staff’s predictions for 2014, and see how accurate last year’s prognostications were.

Got a prediction of your own? Tell us about it in the comments.

Howard OwensHoward Owens, publisher, The Batavian
As we enter 2014, AOL’s Patch is all but dead. Nobody yet has found a way to make digital hyperlocal work at “scale,” but the independents trudge along, slowly building their businesses.

It’s unlikely that there will be another large company effort to create a hyperlocal network and without that easy national target to cover, media pundits will struggle to find a storyline on hyperlocal. There may be brief flurries of coverage of independents, but not the sustained storyline Patch provided. Since business growth for independents is by nature and need slow, the consistent and steady growth of the indies will not make for very compelling copy. The only reason coverage of the hyperlocal news industry will continue is the pundits, who almost all started at some small newspaper or small radio station somewhere, will continue to fret over the salvation of local news coverage.

There will be no seismic shift in the hyperlocal landscape in 2014. The watchword of the year is the wisdom of Clayton Christensen: Be eager for profit, patient for growth.

chrisChris Marentis, CEO, Surefire Social
Prediction #1 — National brands as well as SMBs will want to pay close attention to Facebook, as the site creates more opportunity for advertisers related to category targeting and remarketing. This will be key to building engagement with potential customers and overall online presence.

Prediction #2 — Local ratings and reviews have been important for sometime. However, with Google’s launch of City Experts, it is clear the search engine is honing in on local ratings and reviews meaning businesses will need to make an extra effort to have their local customers write reviews. Local businesses will also need to ensure they are verifying and updating their local listings on Google, as those businesses will have the opportunity to view reviews in their Places for Business dashboard.

Prediction #3 — Mobile-optimized websites will be more important than ever for local businesses. Major search engines will continue to rank websites higher in mobile search results if they are formatted properly for mobile. This could mean the difference between customers finding a local business prior to a competitor or not at all. Some search engines might even start penalizing websites — pushing them down in search results — that are not mobile optimized.

Steven RosenblattSteven Rosenblatt, CRO, Foursquare
1.) Location is the New Cookie — Whether you are a national advertiser or local business, you are going to start to realize that proximity and relevance is the holy grail and will be an important indicator of driving ROI for your advertising

2.) Local Marketing Audit — Marketers will start auditing all local spend and underperforming dollars across TV, Print, Radio, OOH will start to shift towards mobile location based marketing

3.) Context is King — Stop talking about a Geo-fence and start talking about context. We all know that we can get a GPS signal from smartphones, but without context, it can be dangerous. So 2014 is the year we start talking more about context

-2Debbie Galant, director, NJ News Commons at Montclair State University & founder of Baristanet
Following in the footsteps of the tiny but mighty Inside Climate News, which nabbed a Pulitzer in National Reporting in 2013, the coming year will be the first that a scrappy hyperlocal news site grabs a Pulitzer honor — proving that excellence can come in small packages.

Jason KleinJason Klein, CEO, OnGrid Ventures
2014 will be the year that hyperlocal goes indoors. Precise indoor positioning will become incorporated into more mobile applications, and the battle will turn to reaching the shopper walking in the mall and right in front of the shelf. Apple’s iBeacon, Bluetooth low energy, and pervasiveness of wifi have put a spotlight on the increasing reach of the mobile web. Even big retailers like Macy’s are testing new ways to reach stoppers in-store in New York City and San Francisco, and Major League Baseball is incorporating iBeacon into MLB.com to keep fans more engaged at ballparks. From local to hyperlocal to point-local. Maybe Streetfight will launch a new site called BarFight?

josh_mccarter_loresJosh McCarter, CEO, Booker
As everyone knows, local businesses don’t want to run data from one system to another. They want one view for their whole business. In 2013 the new local stack became clear from top to bottom — everything from marketing, to scheduling, to payment and operations.

In 2014 the biggest players will start to do what SMBs really want — to automate all of it. Going forward merchants won’t settle for anything less than one view for all of run & grow.

david mihmDavid Mihm, director of local search strategy, Moz
1.) The hype around mobile payments will continue to grow — There are plenty of substantial switching costs for small businesses to consider when deciding on a payments platform, but with Paypal Here, Intuit GoPayment, Groupon’s Breadcrumb, and obviously Square, there are finally enough mature players in the ecosystem for SMBs to make an informed decision.  I wouldn’t be surprised to see the next era of innovators adapt the strengths of established players to the needs of SMBs in specific verticals–maybe car and shuttle services, professional services, and home services–beyond the low-hanging fruit of restaurants and coffee shops.  (Nor would I be surprised to see a Square IPO.)

2.) The hype around digital loyalty programs will wane somewhat. — While the economics of loyalty platforms like Belly and Punchcard are inherently more sustainable than the wave of daily deals sites that bubbled and then burst a couple of years ago, I don’t think that optimizing the spend of existing customers scratches a desperate itch for small businesses. Regardless of how much economic sense it makes to MBAs and economists, from a sales standpoint, it seems to have all the complexity of mobile payments without the same perceived level of need by the SMB.

3.) The hype around “content marketing for local businesses” will begin. — To some extent, one could argue that it’s already started, with companies like ours (Moz) and Hubspot sending representatives to more and more local search shows. Although we both widen our focus to a little bit broader “inbound” moniker, content lies at the core of inbound marketing. Regardless of what you call it, with the impact Google’s Hummingbird algorithm is having, and the continual desire of local businesses to gain customers through social media, it won’t just be big brands and directories that will need content marketing–but every SMB who wants to succeed online.

randy parkerRandy Parker, founder, PagePart
One- Stop Shopping for VSBs — Go Daddy (likely 2014 IPO) and Constant Contact already offer suites of services in the fight to be the central marketing provider to very small businesses (VSBs).

In 2014, this market will get more attention, and I predict we see at least two interesting new entrants to this space.   One will be a surprise move by a major company currently not thought of in this way (think Amazon, Apple, or Comcast). The other will be one of the social networks (Twitter, Facebook, Google) making a major bet to distinguish themselves as the best friend of small business — with a big move beyond status updates and social network ads.

Rob Reed, CEO, MomentFeedRob Reed, founder, MomentFeed
In 2014, national marketers will need to focus on authenticity in their marketing messages. It’s the dawn of the “mass personalization” era whereby consumers demand relevance in marketing messages, lest they be perceived as spam. This is driven by one overarching trend: smartphone ubiquity. Smartphones are highly personal. What’s more, they transcend all marketing mediums. Consumers are simultaneously “on” their smartphones when they are consuming all other channels — TV, print, outdoor, online, etc. In the end, reaching consumers on mobile is all that will matter to marketers. But the bar for truly engaging consumers on mobile is higher than any other. It requires that messages be authentic and personalized. And one of the best ways to achieve this is through local relevance.

Got a prediction of your own? Let us know about it in the comments!