Report: Executive Survey on Hyperlocal Tech and Tactics

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What’s on the mind of technology and marketing suppliers targeting the connected local economy? According to Street Fight Insights analysis, they’re keen on mobile — perhaps too keen — but struggling with their own companies’ brand awareness.

Street Fight wanted to get a quick snapshot of what’s on the minds of companies selling technology and services into the hyperlocal media and commerce marketplace. For input into our analysis, last month we posted a executive survey we promoted via blog posts on the Street Fight site, social media, and the Street Fight newsletter, and offered as an incentive a discount on tickets to our New York Summit. Thirty-five mostly C-level execs or VPs from a fairly even mix of ad-tech, data analytics and services, and commerce technology providers — along with a few publishers and agencies — completed the survey. You can use this analysis to get a directional view of what technologies companies are prioritizing, and what they think are near-term challenges and opportunities in the market.

The dichotomy between small businesses — as many as half of which likely do not have websites — and national chains that sell locally is profound, and presents difficult challenges in scaling to support either, let alone both. There also are some mismatches between technology hype and market readiness. Street Fight does not believe these disconnects are crippling, but successful vendors will take note and set expectations and budgets accordingly.

Peceptions Local Merchant Needs

Vendor excitement over mobile far outpaces local adoption. Over half (51 percent) of the execs we surveyed rated mobile as their top advertising technology investment and 40 percent rated it the top commerce technology. Social media was a close number two in both categories. And, as shown above, most think that local merchants need the most help in mobile marketing.

But for small business merchants we polled in a prior survey, mobile was an issue, but not a top priority. As shown in our Local Merchant Report, small local businesses rated SEO, their web/commerce site, and social media at the top of their wish list. Just as critical, they told us there really is no silver bullet, as nearly a dozen marketing and commerce tactics were cited by double-digit percentages of respondents. Clearly, small local merchants need help on integration across their tactics.

The vendors are in sync with their prospective customers on sites, SEO, and commerce, but they’re probably too far ahead on mobile. The good news is that social and mobile are highly complementary, and perhaps that’s the line suppliers should take when pitching to local small business.

Challenges Facing Vendors: The Case for Local Portals

We also asked the executives to rate the difficulty of a half-dozen or so challenges their companies faced. As shown below, nearly half acknowledge how tough it is to sell to both big national brands and retailers and to sell products and services at prices a small business can handle. But the top challenge overall was raising their own company’s brand awareness.

Perceptions Vendor challenges

There was an even division between those who thought identifying prospects was hard or not, and a plurality (40 percent) of respondents thought proving ROI to their customers was pretty easy. We’re a little suspicious of both those results. Based on our local merchant survey, small businesses are not very good at measuring ROI or effectiveness. That represents an opportunity for suppliers who can create easy-to-use dashboards and templates for campaigns. And vendors that do a better job targeting prospects early in their own sales funnel will save sales efforts later on.

Too many tech vendors believe their “platform” approach can service big national brands and retailers and small local businesses as well. Opening services up via APIs isn’t enough. And while bundling point products into an integrated marketing and commerce solution presents the benefits of functional integration, better analytics, upselling opportunities, margins and service remain hard.

We see an opportunity for a new breed of local services portal. The industry could use a few hubs for demand generation, integration, and fulfillment. Targeted content marketing can raise awareness and consideration. Community content can help consideration and customer service. And a vehicle for the kind of vertical-industry customization formerly done by VARs could evolve from services integration components.

Hey, such a portal could even revive local publishing businesses.

David Card is Street Fight’s director of research.

Click here to download a free copy of the Street Fight Insights report, The State of Hyperlocal 2015.