The Rise of Marketing Automation in Local’s Next Act

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SW_20141104_NY_4149Marketing automation isn’t just for the biggest companies in the world anymore. Thanks to a new crop of local companies, small and medium-sized businesses (SMB) have access to the data and the tools to reach their customers in smart, efficient ways while minimizing the hassle on the backend.

During a panel at the 2014 Street Fight Summit, Booker CEO Josh McCarter, Signpost CEO Stuart Wall, and ShopKeep VP of Product Drew Schwartz discussed the latest trends in a panel moderated by StreetFight deputy editor Steven Jacobs.

“We want to help SMBs leverage that data as a means to continue the conversation about personalization and automated marketing and that first step into the email and tracking everything,” Schwartz said, offering up a forthcoming partnership with MailChimp as an example of a way companies can take transaction data about customer behavior and launch a series of automated messages to specific sections of their clientele.

“It’s a unique challenge,” he said, citing the fact that 60 percent of the businesses that ShopKeep works with are first-time businesses. “The way that we try to approach it with SMBs is to make it as seamless as possible for them and for their customers. The way to do that is automatically have things like email receipts so the platform does the work.”

McCarter agreed that there’s a huge opportunity to be the technology platform for SMBs. “When you focus on the service economy like we do, most of these companies are getting left behind when it comes to technology,” he said. “Maybe they have a point of sale system, maybe they have paper, maybe they have a sales system, maybe they have a CRM but for the most part the systems are disconnected. It makes it very difficult.”

Getting SMBs to buy into the technology can be difficult but Wall said that most of the spend came from marketing budgets, which were replenished more quickly than some other categories, so showing an increase in return on investment was essential.

McCarter sees service-based companies that have very perishable inventory as big opportunity. Booker focuses on helping these companies fill their space with repeat customers.

“We’re trying to help them get their customers back,” he said. “It’s sending a targeted email saying ‘you haven’t been for 60 days. Here’s a deal.'”

The panelists all agreed that the market is starting to accelerate.  Mandates around payment security, such as the need to accept EMV payment, are driving security into point-of-sale systems. But the biggest threat, which these new systems pose, is to the offline systems that still dominate the market, said McCarter.

“Point solutions are losing out, especially if you’re not connected,” McCarter said. “It’s even worse if you’re an offline solution. We’re seeing a lot of these install legacy solutions going to the wayside.”

Schwartz saw the same trend. “It’s not about the guy with the pinkie ring trying to sell you a point of sale system any more,” he said, “There’s going to be a move in the next couple years from these old server-client based technologies.”

Noah Davis is a senior editor at Street Fight.