Grading Street Fight’s 2014 Predictions

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Art Christmas and New years eve 2014At the end of each year, Street Fight invites staffers, friends, and luminaries from the industry to share their predictions for what’s in store for the coming year. Today, we take a look back at some of the predictions that people had for 2014 to see who nailed it and who missed the boat.

These represent a small number of the total predictions from last year, which you can find here, here and here. We’ll be running predictions for 2015 tomorrow and Wednesday.

alex-salkeverAlex Salkever, Street Fight contributor
“The first drone hyperlocal delivery service will officially launch somewhere outside the U.S. In the U.S. the FAA will finally clear a pathway to commercial drone use under limited circumstances in rural areas. Urban areas will remain off limits, natch.”

Grade: C

Good thinking, but never underestimate the obstinance of bureaucracy. The FAA effectively banned the commercial use of drones by dragging its feet on reforming aircraft regulations in 2014. Amazon said recently that the inaction has forced the company to move its drone-related research and development activities abroad.

Inevitably, drones will play a critical role in the fulfillment structures that support both remote and local commerce operations. However, as the technology industry extends its reach beyond the confines of a virtual internet, the speed of development and change in these businesses will slow. Building the future is no longer just a technology problem;  it’s a social, governmental and economic one as well.

Asif Khan, president of the Location-Based Marketing Association
“As I look to 2014, I can’t help but acknowledge the rise of indoor positioning. Retailers everywhere, led by the iBeacon craze, are embracing technology that can help them track the real-time movements of customers in their stores.  Watch for companies like iInside, Indoor Atlas, Mexia Interactive and Estimote to drive this acceleration forward.”

Grade: B

A big year, but maybe not the year for indoor positioning. Retailers continued to adopt analytics and navigation technology, but the pace of innovation did slow to reflect a more cautious market. Indoor analytics firms worked with privacy groups and government regulators to address concerns over unwarranted tracking that surfaced in 2013. But the biggest setback for these firms came from Apple, which decided to anonymize the wireless identifier in iOS8 used by many firms to measure foot traffic.

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.”

Grade: B+

Yes, and no. AOL unloaded Patch to a private equity group a few weeks into the new year ending a disastrous few years of proxy wars, PR debacles and big losses. At the time, the sale of Patch marked the last corporate experiment with hyperlocal media as large firms recognize that the current model atrophied as it scaled.

But surprise: following the sale of Patch, Comcast resurrected Everyblock, its more data-driven take on a hyperlocal community site. The cable giant plans to expand the project from a small pilot to neighborhoods in Boston, Houston and Florida. Meanwhile, the Sun-Times launched its own templated news network of 70 site covering local communities that fits somewhere in between an editorial-driven Patch and the social plays of Everyblock and NextDoor.

Steven Jacobs, deputy editor, Street Fight
“In 2014, the companies that build local enterprise software will shift investment from product development to growth, causing the number of sellers using these systems to grow. That means that more local sellers will have the core technology in place to start selling online and implement other features like product search, which ecommerce firms have owned for the past decade.”

Grade: A-

Okay, next up: me. And I must say, I was fairly prophetic this year. Each of the top four point-of-sale companies raised new rounds — and big ones to boot. Square closed $250 million in financing over the course of the year; Revel Systems, another brand-focused software company, raised $100 million; and the two small business centered Square competitors — Lightspeed and Shopkeep — raised $35 million and $25 million respectively. The product set is still expanding, but the core point-of-sale offering is now competitive, if not better, than the systems offered by legacy firms such Micros (which sold for$ 5.3 billion.)

Eli PortnoyEli Portnoy, Former GM, Thinknear
“2013 was the year that mobile stopped being about experimentation and started being about results. Huge investments in mobile from major brands on both the brand and publisher sides showed that mobile was worth more attention. In years past, location targeting was just part of the plan; 2014 will see a shift into making it a priority.”

Grade: A

Ironically, the bulk of the early spending on mobile advertising has been driven by the mobile industry itself. App download ads account for a massive part of Facebook and others mobile ad revenues.

That started to change in 2014. Large marketers began to allocated sizable chunks of their store marketing budgets to mobile campaigns, funnel huge amounts of money to handful of mobile-local advertising companies. We’re talking about I/O’s in the 10’s of millions not of 10’s of thousands range.