Hyperlocal Execs’ 2015 Predictions (Part One): Moz, Foursquare, Placed

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crystal-ball1With 2014 nearly in the can, it’s clear that a lot has happened in the hyperlocal space in the past 12 months. On-demand local apps like Uber expanded rapidly and inspired copycats; local publishers retrenched as Aol wound down its mega-investment in Patch; delivery services got smarter and the competition got thicker; and the listings management space heated up. Meanwhile, Google rejiggered its algorithm with “pigeon” and mobile firms rushed to develop attribution tools that could demonstrate their efficacy.

As we have for the past three years, Street Fight recently asked a number of hyperlocal luminaries to weigh in with their predictions for where local is headed in 2015. We’ll be running their responses in two installments, today and tomorrow. You can also check out this rundown of how some of last year’s predictions turned out.

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


Google will lose market share in local.

andrew shotlandAndrew Shotland, proprietor, LocalSEOGuide
— Apple Maps will continue to gain on Google Maps’ share as it improves, gets more integrated into the Apple ecosystem and Apple sells more devices.

— Mobile apps, particularly on-demand apps like Serviz, Uber, Urgently, etc., that do not rely on Google will continue to capture more local search eyeballs. Thanks to services like Uber I will never search for a car service or taxi again.

— Facebook will continue to develop local marketing/presence services and gain share just by being there regardless of the quality of the services

— Local digital market spend will continue to fracture as SMBs & BLBs (Big Local Brands) move dollars into specific verticals (think Porch, Houzz, etc)

— While Local AdWords dollars will continue to grow as more merchants try it out and blow a lot of money in the process, agencies will try to shift spend to potentially higher ROI (and higher profit for the agency) services like conversion optimization, content creation, lead gen, etc.

— Google will continue to update its local products and continue to break them which will continue to cause businesses to actively look for alternative ways to gain customers

— The growth of mobile search may end up being Google’s savior as a custom mobile ad unit is probably a much better experience than a generic mobile search result for local queries.


Programmatic and payments expand, as M&A ramps up

Steven RosenblattSteven Rosenblatt, CRO, Foursquare
A few things wound up happening in 2014 worth noting. The launch of ApplePay brought mainstream awareness to mobile payments, programmatic advertising was all the rage, native advertising became widespread, and users were increasingly comfortable with sharing their location. Additionally, we saw continuing declines in “traditional advertising”, the first signs of vulnerability in TV advertising, and — despite all the noise an hype — beacons still far from catching on.

2015 will be the year where most of the advances we’ve seen take further root. Programmatic advertising will shift from quantity to quality, mobile commerce and payments will see substantial growth because user experiences will continue to get better, and companies with unique first-party data and/or massive scale will thrive.

I also think we’ll see a lot of M&A activity in 2015, spurred by intensifying competition between tech companies and traditional media companies realizing they need to be better prepared for a mobile world. And for users, mobile content will become more personalized and the trend of app constellations — single purpose apps that are interconnected — will continue to take hold.


Marketers hone their targeting.

kelly-benishKelly Benish, VP Publisher Development, Civic Science (& Street Fight columnist)
1.) Marketers will see seasonality in terms of the best way to reach certain aggregate groups of customers, whether it by via TV ads, Internet ads, and social media.

2.) Online visibility will become even more vital in reaching and communicating to localized audiences, but marketers will realize that it cannot be solely relied upon to reach certain segments of consumers. For example, TV ads are best to reach consumers age 45+; Radio ads best for reaching those aged 35-54, male, and living in rural areas; and outdoor advertising are more influential to those aged 13-24.


Facebook muscles in on local, beacons gain steam.

Greg SterlingGreg Sterling, VP Strategy and Insights, Local Search Association
In 2015 we’re going to see continued momentum for mobile wallets and payments, to the point of mainstream adoption. However most of the early adoption will come in the form of in-app payments for offline services (e.g., Uber, OpenTable). But offline, point of sale mobile payments will slowly gain traction as well.

Payments are also tied in to another important trend, cloud-based development of SMB “back office” services. In addition to payments, scheduling, analytics and CRM-like services will become much more prevalent for SMBs as a complement to digital marketing.

After a few false starts and lots of tentative actions, Facebook will finally introduce a stronger local consumer offering in 2015. I predict a “Places” app, leveraging the company’s location, business and consumer ratings data, by mid 2015.

Facebook’s Oculus Rift will finally be out and pushing virtual reality into the gaming mainstream. In 2015 we’ll also see non-gaming entertainment experiences produced for VR headsets. I expect to see some experimental travel and local VR experiences too.

Smartphone location history will continue to be developed as a mobile, cookie-like alternative for a broad range of advertiser use cases, including offline attribution, audience discovery and segmentation and media planning.

Offline metrics gain further momentum and become more prominent as marketers and ad platforms try to connect the dots between digital ads and offline transactions, especially against the backdrop of online ad fraud and insufficient display ad “viewability.”

Using beacons and other technologies, indoor location gains wide deployment by national retailers, hotel chains, sports stadiums, grocery stores and QSR chains in 2015.

Partly as a result of these developments location and data privacy become increasingly sensitive and contentious issues in 2015.

Finally, while services for the SMB marketer become more sophisticated, the local market remains as confusing, fragmented and noisy as ever. Unfortunately not much improves for the besieged local business owner trying to make sense of digital marketing.


Email marketing makes a comeback, while big competition develops for on-demand home services.

david mihmDavid Mihm, director of local search strategy, Moz
1.) SMBs will finally start to ask about the ROI of time spent on social media, especially Facebook.
Facebook’s decision to effectively kill organic reach will lose it a lot of brand affinity among small businesses. Not all of them will delete their presence like Eat24 and Copyblogger, but they will start to ask “what’s in it for me?”

2.) We’ll see a major new partnership or standalone player emerge in email marketing.
This could almost be seen as a corollary to item #1. SMBs will still need to reach their audience socially, and we may see a shift back to email (or something like it) as a means to do that. After all, email still has an incredibly high response rate–increasingly mobile–relative to its lack of expense.

3.) The on-demand home services space will reach fever pitch.
Pro, Porch, Handy, Homejoy, and Thumbtack will continue to fight for market share against Amazon‘s recent entry and along with established offline players. Older-generation digital companies in this vertical may get acquired or merge out of desperation.


Mobile and info-on-the-go will surge.

Stu_Wall_IIIIStuart Wall, CEO, Signpost
Word-of-mouth makes or breaks a local business. In 2015 we’ll see the impact of digital on this aspect of business increase significantly. Mobile usage will surge across smartphones and wearables, increasing real-time demand for information about businesses from search and context aware apps. New iterations of apps like Google Now, FB Graph Search and Apple Siri will give consumers the info they need for their decision making by uncovering latent business information that consumers share across email, messaging and social networks.


Real innovation will come in SMB marketing.

perryPerry Evans, CEO, Closely
In 2015, small businesses will continue to feel intense pressure to make moves into an increasingly diverse range of digital marketing and operations tools. With over 2,000 start-ups building products for SMB’s (according to AngelList), the intensity and noise will continue to overwhelm the average SMB.  The cost of gaining business owner attention will escalate and traditional channels will struggle to stay current and knowledgeable in the eyes of the SMB.  2015 will be the year we begin to see real innovation pointed at reinventing the SMB channel.


Location targeting and The ‘Year of the Beacon.’

* David Shim, CEO, PlacedDavid Shim, CEO, Placed
1.) In-Store Attribution:  9 out of 10 conversions associated with mobile advertising occur offline, and yet the majority of campaigns don’t attribute to in-store. In 2015, in-store attribution will be default, and we’ll start to see the smart marketers start to optimize against in-store conversions

2.) Location Targeting: Similar to retargeting on desktop, geofencing store locations will run into issues with scale, and marketers will turn to targeting locations based on behaviors

3.) Beacons: 2015 is set to be the “Year of the Beacon”, specifically the top of the hype curve, where beacons follow the path of NFC, RFID, and QR codes


‘Goal-based’ marketing comes to the fore.

Sharon RowlandsSharon Rowlands, CEO, ReachLocal
Personalization is key and 2015 will see the introduction of “goal-based marketing.” What is goal-based marketing? It’s a mix of technology and marketing experts who can manage your marketing to your specific goals.

Gone are the days of measuring alone on metrics such as Click Thru Rates (CTR), Cost Per Clicks (CPC) and Cost Per Impressions (CPM).  The new marketing standard will be to set a marketing objective and manage to that objective with transparency and technology that never takes a minute off.


Apple Pay struggles to gain foothold, while other services get ‘uber-fied.’

speaker_MichaelBolandMike Boland, VP of Content, BIA/Kelsey (& Street Fight columnist)
Among several predictions, my highlights are mobile payments and the “uberification” of local. And they feed right into each other.

First, Apple Pay won’t transform proximity payments in 2015. The iPhone has 13 percent market share, and the iPhone6 is a subset of that. So compatible hardware (NFC) won’t reach near term ubiquity to motivate retail POS upgrades. And the value proposition — tap a phone instead of swiping your card — needs more substance to change such an entrenched habit. That means saving time, money; or skipping lines.

Apple Pay’s near term killer app will be in-app payments (doesn’t require NFC) for retail “order ahead” or on demand local services a la Uber. As the segment continues to explode, and transform the local service economy, app fragmentation will compel a unification/authentication layer. Apple Pay provides real utility here in being 1. Trusted (halo effect) 2. Fast & easy. The latter is a function of TouchID which is pretty slick in practice.


Explosive growth in geo-social.

Tony_LongoAnthony Longo, CEO, CO Everywhere
Geo-social and hyperlocal have re-emerged as buzzwords this year, but something about it is very different this time around. With the likes of Airbnb, Uber and Foursquare, we now have real businesses with real customers at the foundation of this digital niche.

My prediction for 2015: look for explosive growth in geo-social. More smartphones + network growth (my dad is on Instagram) + platform adoption by brands and retail stores = real value to those right outside their front door. It’s going to be a great year.


Situational awareness displaces search.

Kreg Peeler_Headshot_PortraitKreg Peeler, CEO, SpinGo
— Search will continue to be displaced by situational awareness.

— Experiential marketing will capture an increased portion of marketing budgets.

— On-demand service apps (Uber, Handy, Zeel) will expand into every service industry.


Beacons make big gains, putting pressure on newspaper circulars.

Gordon BorrellGordon Borrell, CEO, Borrell Associates
At the risk of being featured in Buzzfeed’s Shockingly Bad Predictions, I’ll offer just one for 2015.

I think you’ll see store beacons grab bigger and bigger headlines as app providers and retailers collaborate to push advertising, mostly in the form of coupons, to wallet-ready pedestrians.  The quick sophistication of this technology, combine with a pre-installed customer base and some startlingly good results, will make the beacon phenomenon mushroom, fast. And over three to four years, it will more than likely devastate the newspaper circular and direct-mail coupon business.  The first measurable sign: Thanksgiving Day newspapers in 2015 will be a lot thinner.


Online and offline get blurrier.

Manish PatelManish Patel, CEO, Where2GetIt
In 2015, the gap between online and offline will continue to be blurred by:

— Continued proliferation of mobile and accessible wifi
— Adoption of in-app payment systems
— Social becoming the new hyper-local shopping center, a goldmine for the enterprise.

I believe that marketers will throw out useless metrics and reporting, and finally be able to measure the physical signals which drive revenue. Marketers will become more transparent in how their specific tactics actually improve the daily lives of those whom they sell to and their respective consumers. The convenience economy will win.


Integrated, open marketing tech is a game-changer.

chrisChris Marentis, CEO, Surefire Social
SMBs increasingly realize technology alone is not a marketing strategy. Powerful marketing technology and web services innovation allows for leveling of the playing field for SMBs and provides huge opportunity. But most SMBs don’t have the time or knowledge to properly take advantage of these technologies. Look for “marketing services as a service” becoming an important layer of the SMB paradigm.

Integrated, open marketing technology changes the local game. Tons of innovation has taken place in web services for the SMB market. The challenge is integration into a platform. Integration of flexible, open technologies into a platform that can be configured and customized for specific verticals will replace proprietary, legacy technology stacks at an accelerating rate.

Local directories will make it easier to publish content directly to business profiles.  As consumer directories all begin to compete for eyeballs and drive revenue, they want to be a platform businesses can build themselves on. Directories will open up their platforms for dynamic publishing to compete for marketers/SMBs and consumer attention.

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