The Not-So-Low-Hanging Fruit: Why the Local Market Remains Elusive

Local Business - Marketing Concept for Small Business

“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.

Noah Elkin
Street Fight managing editor Noah Elkin

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.

  1. Charles Groome
    September 8, 2015

    One of the ways in which the industry as a whole has slipped up on
    the local equation is in the area of creative and content. Very often we’ve either taken a top-down approach
    (where brands try to control every aspect of the customer journey), or else a completely bottoms-up approach (where local
    businesses rely on review sites and Google’s algorithm to determine
    their fates).

    What’s needed is an approach that
    brings the unique perspective of the local operator into the game, paired wherever possible with the clout and buying power of the master

    Imagine producing remarketing ads that
    are locally driven and locally created, to display what’s on offer at a local retail location at that particular moment in time. These are the kinds of creative executions, driven by local conditions and expertise, that can make a real difference in the local market. It’s where many of the biggest opportunities lie in local markets and where marketing can often have its biggest impact.

    Great article – I look forward to hearing more from Noah on how the not-so-low-hanging local fruit can be plucked!

    1. Max Nichols
      September 8, 2015

      Super succinctly put. Figuring out a way to empower local creators to deliver a much more relevant local message while still being able to deliver a message at scale seems to be the next logical step.

    2. September 9, 2015

      The right message at the right time and location. It’s not about beacons, that’s just technology.
      But this is just for starters, the killer solution that will make this possible has to be convenient, dead simple, value-driven and permission-based.

      1. Charles Groome
        September 11, 2015

        Yvo, you’ve got it spot-on. It’s a real challenge to try and develop a solution for integrating brand and local that meets the needs of both: for local operators, convenient and easy, and for brand managers, value-driven and controlled.

        Check out some of the solutions that are already helping major brands solve this really knotty problem. More and more companies are looking to these solutions to make their high-value assets responsive to the local market.

        None of the providers has got it exactly right just yet, but there are some pretty great features out in the marketplace already. The fantasy of dead-simple and value-driven together may be a reality soon enough!

  2. Jim Clouse
    September 9, 2015

    Excellent article and three awesome comments! And now for the great news: the solution that each of the three commenters pined about already exists. is that solution.

    ClikitySplit empowers any local business to build their “dynamic billboard” in 15-20 minutes and then update that content in 3-4 minutes thereafter. For example, a restaurant could run “Hot Deal” lunch specials, then change the content to run happy hour specials, and then update the content again to run dinner specials. Or a retailer can run Hot Deals that expire every 30 minutes, replaced by other Hot Deals. That is the power of real time dynamic marketing that ClikitySplit has invented.

    Now that ClikitySplit has solved the technological issue for local businesses, their next biggest challenge is finding enough time to effectively use those tools. ClikitySplit has solved that problem too! We are enlisting social media savvy millenials with an entrepreneurial bent to serve as consultants for the local businesses.

    To see this technology in action, logon to and view the videos under “Using/More” on your smartphone.

  3. perryevans
    September 10, 2015

    Good article, and great addition to the StreetFight gang!

    The dimension you’ve not covered here is the merchant side of the equation, and there are two sides to the local marketplace.

    The SMB’s ability to find the time, budget, acquire the knowledge to prioritize, and the skills/services to implement the right digital marketing game plan is a serious impediment to market dev acceleration. It’s not solved by better platforms or tools – they may help, but the reality of cost-of-acquisition, retention/churn, and a dizzying array of product choices are creating real blockage in market progression.

    More-better tools in some ways can actually add to the problem. A wall of noise accentuated by 30 uninvited monthly cold calls with indistinguishable new product pitches are the realities from the SMB’s vantage point.

    1. Eric
      September 11, 2015

      Perry, you nailed it! And to skip a couple of steps down the logic ladder, it shines a bright light on the problem the bigger channels are facing. Using simple financial analysis (I stress simple, and should likely add shallow) large channels in some cases seem to be determining that premise visits can only be cost justified for larger AVO accounts or categories. This means that the vast majority of SMBs are relegated to telesales and other impersonal means of contact. To your point, in an environment where SMBs lack the knowledge (read this as confidence) to make decisions regarding digital solutions, this opens the door wide open for smaller shops willing to invest in premise visits to overcome the confidence gap and capture those all important “trust based” relationships. It’s death by a thousand cuts for the large channels, as these small digitally agencies willing to walk through doors and shake hands can be found as easily as a Starbucks in most towns.

      So what’s the right jujitsu for the big channels? Possibly a fulfillment strategy to let small digital agencies do what they enjoy most – selling and servicing – and avoid what they enjoy least – nuts and bolts fulfillment and execution. Of course successful execution of a strategy like this would require tight management of expectation setting at the product level and exceptional fulfillment, but than anyone involved directly with a channel knows that this challenge is ubiquitous!

    2. Paul Dughi
      September 14, 2015

      There is such a steep learning curve for the small local businesses that it’s impossible for them to navigate the search/social/creative/etc efficiently. They get slammed by people pitching products they don’t understand (and often the sellers don’t understand either) and just about the time they figure things out, the algorithms shift or a new, better way to do it shows up.
      So they end up turning to third-parties or agencies that often have outdated technology or expertise. It’s tough to stay ahead of the game. Is it any wonder that so many local businesses then end up relying on tried-and-true advertising methods — even if they don’t do the job as well as they used to?

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