The Not-So-Low-Hanging Fruit: Why the Local Market Remains Elusive
“Think globally, act locally.” That familiar phrase applies as much to marketing and commerce as it does to helping preserve the environment. As consumers, we may spend more online every year, but to a great extent, we still act locally, whether that means going to our neighborhood supermarket, patronizing a small business or even shopping in the local branch of a big-box store.
Of course, most of us can’t act locally without first thinking globally, because even if we complete our purchase in a local store, chances are we used one of a small handful of far-reaching platforms (e.g. Google, Facebook, Twitter, Yelp) to inform our decision. And because we increasingly rely on our mobile devices to find the local information we need, location (where we’ve been, where we are and where we’re going) has become an intrinsic part of who we are as consumers.
Given all that activity, marketers could be forgiven for assuming they’ve got the local market covered. After all, the ever-expanding marketing and technology stacks marketers use in conjunction with powerful social and commerce platforms are designed to help them target customers more effectively and more precisely, down to the smartphone screen at the aisle level, right? In theory, yes, but in practice, all of that technology marketers bring to bear to win the last mile of commerce often stumbles once a consumer enters a store or tries to find a reliable plumber or electrician within his or her zip code, making the local market actually more elusive than it might seem.
Global platforms have gotten better at serving up local information that can facilitate decision making, but getting to that information can still be too time-consuming for today’s ever more limited attention spans. On the flip side, the many local and vertical-specific search tools and platforms that have emerged can be great provided you live in a market they serve (and we can’t all live in Seattle or the Bay Area), but they often lack scale and consistency. That is the great challenge of winning the local market: balancing sufficient reach and scale with specificity. Turns out thinking globally and acting locally isn’t always easy — as a consumer or a marketer.
How technology, marketing and commerce intersect at the local level and the challenges around winning the last mile are some of the issues I look forward to exploring as part of Street Fight’s editorial team. The time is right: As David Card, Street Fight’s director of research, pointed out last week, shifting consumer behavior means the stakes in the local market are higher than ever, and they will go higher still as the marketing technology sector experiences another in its cyclical waves of consolidation. Street Fight will be there to chronicle and analyze the coming street fight.
Noah Elkin is Street Fight’s managing editor.