Letter From the Editor: Broadening “Local”

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Street Fight’s charter for the past nine years has been to chronicle the happenings of, and pull strategic insights from, the world of location-based media and marketing. But this impactful area that we’ve all come to know as simply “local” continues to evolve and expand.

This sparks an ongoing question we ask ourselves: What is “local?” The answer to that question is different depending on whom you ask. To some, it might mean how restaurant ingredients are sourced. To those in the local advertising industry, it might mean “SMB,” and to others, it could mean how ads are targeted.

The answer is that all of the above are correct. The concept of local is very expansive, and we don’t want to narrow it to subtopics like small business advertising. That doesn’t give it justice and makes “local” seem too small. It’s much more important and expansive than the roughly $50 billion in U.S. SMB ad spend.

The boldest answer is that local is almost everything related to commerce. Because 90+ percent of the $3.7 trillion in U.S. retail spending happens offline, all that purchase activity is happening locally. The purchase path is digitally influenced, of course, but it’s consummated offline, in myriad local markets with their own dynamics.

This makes the digital media and technology that increasingly guides that path to purchase a key focus at Street Fight. Our themes for January (Beyond the Screen), February (Word of Mouth), and March (Targeting Location) each zeroed in on different areas in which digital bridges the “online-to-offline” gap.

Now, as we roll into April, our theme will be “Automating Local.” The rise of artificial intelligence and machine learning are transforming all kinds of areas of the media and tech landscape. But how are they impacting “local?” This is the question we’ll continue to tackle throughout the month.

How are sub-sectors like “retail-as-a-service” bringing AI into retail to transform shopping experiences and empower retailers with new functionality and customer data? For example, cashier-less stores are rising through Amazon Go, and the capability is being democratized by startups like b8ta and Standard Cognition.

Meanwhile, companies like Perch Interactive are transforming the point of purchase, as we discussed in a recent podcast episode with the company’s leadership. Emerging consumer technologies like augmented reality and visual search will empower shoppers with all kinds of new in-aisle product info.

Marketing automation is also increasingly boosting capabilities in these fields, exemplified by automated improvements in customer relationships through technologies like chatbots and voice intelligence. These areas will continue to develop in a multitude of directions, and successful execution will start with an informed position.

So stay tuned for lots more on this topic throughout April. And look for us to do a similar drill down each month, as we broaden the topic of local and pay analytical attention to each of the areas that collectively define it. We’d also love to hear from you about how you fit into this market evolution.

That means reach out to me directly with any ideas or opportunities about how you’d like to be part of Street Fight’s action. We have developing sponsorship opportunities, event-based activity, opportunities to contribute articles and to be a guest on our podcast Heard on the Street. We hope to hear from you.

As Street Fight's President, Anne Marie Stephen stewards the creative vision, team leadership and strategic direction. She has extensive experience developing and implementing high-impact technology strategy with expertise in transformation and innovation.