Executive Survey: What’s Hot and What’s Not in the Connected Local Economy

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Everyone else is doing it, so at Street Fight, we’re going to join in and look at some early poll results. Not for the forthcoming presidential election, but about what’s on the mind of executives at the forefront of hyperlocal technology.

We’re currently running a survey on key local technologies and issues facing the industry. The core infrastructure that powers the connected local economy is soon to be obsolete, and the coming upgrade cycle presents the opportunity to connect some critical dots. Local merchants and their suppliers should be exploring how to better understand the relationship between marketing and commerce and where to gain efficiencies by linking back- and front-office functions.

Our executive survey is still live, and we will discuss it at our upcoming Street Fight Summit in New York, as well as use it as a research input for analysis reports. To encourage industry participation, we wanted to share some of the preliminary results. What we’re seeing so far comes from a pretty even mix of suppliers of advertising or commerce tech and data services. Mobile is on everyone’s mind.

Tech Investment
We asked executives in which technologies and tactics their companies were investing the most over the next 12 to 18 months, across advertising/marketing and commerce. Mobile advertising is commanding the most investment, followed closely by data and analytics. Content marketing or native advertising and social media are also on the marketing radar screen. Similarly, mobile was the top technology in commerce, currently nosing out analytics and ratings/reviews.

There is more consensus on marketing topics than on transaction-oriented technologies and tactics. Mobile is highest on both lists, even though advanced mobile technologies like wearables, beacons, geofencing, and payments aren’t seeing as much investment from our respondents. Clearly, the industry is still experimenting and laying groundwork, mostly through mobile ads and offers.

We also asked what technologies industry execs think are passing fads. When asked which ‘hot topics’ we will not even be talking about next year, the most popular response from the early poll-takers was Facebook stores/buy buttons. That’s ‘ahead’ of subjects like on-demand services, next-gen point of sale systems, and wearables. I can’t disagree. Though Facebook continues to try to innovate in offering transactional platforms for retail, social media in general seems better suited for marketing and customer service.

Hot topics

Making Connections
We wanted to test a hypothesis about hyperlocal technology infrastructure. Right now, there’s a ‘perfect storm’ at the intersection of three technology trends. Mobile is one, of course, and it’s helping drive the other two. Square is leading a wave of new point-of-sale systems, many of which leverage tablets, mobile phones, and payments. Mobile advertising and marketing – along with social media marketing – is pushing hard on traditional local marketing tactics and measurement.

This intersection of mobile, new POS systems, and new marketing technologies, if integrated and implemented properly, should help merchants and marketers better understand the impact of marketing on transactions. In theory, that could help them manage operations more effectively, especially if core accounting and payments systems can pull data from booking and scheduling tools used for customers and employees.

That’s the theory, anyway. As shown in the preliminary results below, our hypothesis may be a bit optimistic. Most respondents think that if there’s real opportunity to be had, it’s either over the head of most of their customers or still a ways out. Supplier strategies are mixed. Would-be connector Intuit is spinning off some products that linked marketing and sales, while Square is adding back-office operations tools.


Challenges on Both Sides of the Economy
The executives that have taken our survey so far think local merchants need the most help with mobile marketing and managing their company websites. They believe SEO and listings management also present challenges – or opportunities – for service providers. Earlier, when we surveyed small local merchants in our large-scale Local Merchant report, the merchants themselves said that SEO, website/ecommerce, and social media were trouble spots. The absence of mobile marketing on that list indicated that, though interest was there, few were actually investing in implementations.

As for their own biggest challenges, the early-respondent executives highlighted multiple marketing issues. Most rated raising their own company’s brand awareness as the most difficult objective. Right behind was selling to national brands that sell or market locally, and identifying prospective customers. These issues outpace proving ROI or selling low-cost products at scale in their minds.

As noted, these are early results. How does your own company’s experience align with these responses? Do you think we’re too far ahead of the opportunity to deliver operational and marketing efficiency? Or perhaps that social media is still a bigger deal than mobile, no matter how closely they’re intertwined? Take our survey and contribute to the conversation.

David Card is Street Fight’s director of research.

Click here to take the survey and save 15% on Street Fight Summit NYC tickets.