Street Fight Staff and Friends Predict 2017’s Top Stories (Part One)

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Year 2017 written on sand at sunrise

As 2016 draws to a close, we’ve once again asked Street Fight staffers and columnists to look into their crystal ball and offer prognostications for what they think will be the biggest story (or stories) in local in 2017. We’ll be running their outlooks in two installments, the first today and the second tomorrow.

This is the second in our series of predictions pieces that we’ll feature this week. Yesterday, Freckle IoT’s Neil Sweeney weighed in with thoughts about the future of attribution. Click here to check out all of our predictions for 2017.


Data Drives the Local Conversation

David-CardDavid Card, research director, Street Fight

Hyperlocal data and analytics will be the topic of the year. According to our State of Hyperlocal survey, data and analytics is either the top (commerce) or second (marketing and advertising) area hyperlocal tech and services companies are investing in. And real-time location data is the second most popular new technology national-to-local marketers are exploring. At the same time, those big brands and retailers are using pretty kludgy or home-grown tools to manage and analyze their local marketing. And the vendors rate online-to-offline attribution as the biggest challenge facing the industry, a challenge that will require smart analytics and data integration. Some aspects of this theme that should play out in 2017:

  • Sources: user data from the major platforms (Apple, Facebook, Google) is incompatible and proprietary, requiring third-party harmonization and integration. Hyperlocal specialists like Factual, FourSquare, Placed, PlaceIQ, Verve, Ubermedia, and xAd will be joined by – and are forming partnerships with – credit card companies, wireless carriers, and international specialists like Blis. Cleaning and integrating third-party data with first-party CRM data will grow as a business.
  • Uses: it’s not just mobile ad targeting, which is still pretty primitive. Many if not most big marketers are still using hyperlocal data for customer analysis and multichannel re-targeting, as well as doing real estate and sales planning. Using consumer traffic and payment data to assess attribution is starting to gain momentum.
  • Small business: local merchants don’t have the time or expertise to make good use of modern data and analytics. New tools may please some SMBs that have stats affinity but most will be looking for products and services that hide analytics complexity and focus on lead generation and very simple marketing ROI.

Not gonna happen
“Bots are the new apps” is a hot meme, but I’m skeptical of chatbots being a big deal anytime soon. Messaging apps may be a platform for payments, commerce, and content in Asian regions, but that has yet to catch on in the U.S. or Europe. And even in the Far East, all the messaging money is in games. Plus, since messaging apps are incompatible, they’re hard to program and their audiences are walled off from each other. In fact, while I’m at it, even apps aren’t the new apps. Precious few marketers or retailers aside from Starbucks and Amazon can count on getting their own app downloaded and used regularly. It’s already started, but a lot of former app action is moving back to mobile websites.

Obligatory company prediction
It’s not really local, except for some of us, but the New York Times gets a new sugar daddy a la Jeff Bezos and the Washington Post. Mike Bloomberg swoops in to rescue the Gray Lady and take her private.


Bots and Voice Search Will Surge

Damian RollisonDamian Rollison, Brandify director of product & “Streets Ahead” columnist

There’s no question that the big trends on the horizon are voice search and artificial intelligence. The change that they will make in traditional search engine optimization is going to be pretty stark, though we don’t know yet how soon that impact will really be felt. But the bottom line is that services and devices like Amazon Alexa and Google Home will want to offer consumers the best answer to their unique and very specific questions, rather than a long list of choices that the user needs to navigate through. The voice assistant value proposition is that it already knows what you want. Therefore businesses and others who want to be competitive for those services need to figure out how to stand out in the new brand of longtail search.


Mobile Payments and Geo-Targeted SMS Will Emerge

Asif KhanAsif Khan, President of the Location Based Marketing Association

2017 will be the year that mobile payments finally become the norm! This will be driven by location/proximity based payment technologies like NFC and beacons.  The use of beacons will be partially driven by Apple’s move to get rid of the headphone jack on the iPhone.

Watch for big Chinese players like Alipay and WeChat to partner with big name retailers and brands in the U.S. to get the market moving, with Apple and Android Pay capitalizing on this to make it mainstream by the end of the year.
2017 will also see the re-emergence of geo-targeted SMS. Mobile operators like AT&T and Verizon, will finally be able to realize revenue from real-time location data gathered from their cell towers, enabling brands to reach consumers through a channel they already use.  App developers are in for a set-back!


Artificial Intelligence Will Humanize Content Marketing

charity-huffCharity Huff, Managing Partner, Maroon Ventures

Content marketing will become more humanized. Strange enough, it will be through tech companies that build machine learning and advanced, micro-audience targeting to more closely predict where each of us is in our distinct purchase journey. Knowing where we’ve come from, why we decided to engage with your content and applying the right science to those questions will make the content monetization strategies we saw in 2016 seem antiquated. Companies will need to deliver more than geo-targeting, remarketing, and basic matching algorithms to deliver a relevant message.  Watch for service journalism to be smartly paired with e-commerce, creating a viable revenue stream for publishers.  And, we’ll see Kanye West sign on as lead speech-writer for the Trump Administration.  Nobody does content marketing like Kayne and Trump.


Companies Will Continue to Experiment With Distributed Teams

AprilApril Nowicki, “Street Culture” columnist

Location technology startups often attract skilled employees with independent company culture – some offer equity value, or work to foster relationships between colleagues, or do away with hierarchy and encourage learning.

Going into the New Year, there’s one policy that might be gaining traction: remote workers. Startups can gain budget flexibility with remote developers, and launch new services with just a few people. Many talented workers want to work from home – Alison Meadows, ibotta VP of human resources, told Street Fight that one of the first questions that potential programmer employees ask is if they can work from home. For ibotta, it just doesn’t work, and customer service employees are the only ones who may work remotely.

But ibotta is five years old, and the company’s super-fast growth means that their in-house developer team is necessary. For brand new startups such as two-year-old Unacast or months-old Stylu, working remotely is itself part of the culture. A “war for talent” in the U.S. drove Unacast to attract developers in Oslo, Norway, where half of the team is still located. When asked how he aggregated his team of five employees, Stylu’s founder said, “Google.”

The trend of employees asking to work from home didn’t go away this year, and it’s likely to stay through the next. Though some company leaders are not comfortable having a dispersed team, others are cashing in on the options they gain – they’re expanding technology beyond the business and applying it to bring employees in different locations together.


Millennials Will Drive Adoption of B2B Tech

StevenSteven Jacobs, Street Fight Advisor & Senior Consultant at Bridge Partners Consulting

Millennials will play an increasingly important role in the buying process for business-to-business products. In consumer industries like media, we have already seen how the maturation of the largest generation in US history paired with dramatic technological advancements (e.g. Mobility, cloud, analytics) can rapidly upend traditional routes-to-market for tech products.

B2B markets have remained relatively insulated from the demographic thrust of this two-headed monster but that will change soon for two reasons. The first deals with demographics: the peak of the millennial generation is 26 and will soon begin to at least influence traditional IT purchase decisions. The second deals with changes in the ways technologies are marketed and delivered to business customers. Cloud allows software companies to reduce the barriers to adoption through a) subscription and freemium offerings which reduce the upfront price of software, and b) web-based delivery of software which allows a user to get an application up and running without IT’s help. This enables vendors to market products directly to end-users, not IT orgs, who then advocate their IT organization to formally adopt the product later on. My hypothesis is that these end-users tend to be younger and therefore younger individuals in an organization will play a bigger role in driving adoption of tech products moving forward.

Tune in tomorrow for the rest of Street Fight’s predictions from staff and columnists.