Forget the Alexa-Powered Toilet. The Big Local News at CES is the Amazon Echo Auto

While it may be the Alexa-powered toilet dominating water-cooler conversation this week, the real device to look out for is Amazon’s Echo Auto, an Alexa-powered, voice-activated product that will provide all the utility of Alexa, and connections to other voice-activated devices, from the dashboard of buyers’ cars. The device, which can be requested for just $25 and is available to a limited number of consumers now, has already been requested a whopping one million times—and counting.

After Amazon-Whole Foods, Microsoft-Kroger: The Grocery Revolution Is Happening

Microsoft and Kroger are teaming up, challenging Amazon’s dominance in grocery innovation and pushing back against its takeover of an increasing number of corporate verticals, including cloud infrastructure in the form of Amazon Web Services. (Street Fight’s Mike Boland has predicted that Amazon will sell its grocery tech just as it’s done with AWS, taking an in-house innovation and transforming it into a cash cow.)

Los Angeles Sues Over Weather Channel App’s Data-Collection Practices

The move is representative of changing winds on attitudes toward privacy in the location data ecosystem. Following a series of New York Times Facebook and location data exposés and explainers, and with America’s own GDPR, the California Consumer Privacy Act, slated to go into effect on January 1, 2019, companies are waking up to a new reality in which selling and sharing user data to the tune of billions of dollars in revenue with little oversight is over.

What Does (Local) Innovation Look Like in 2019? An Open Question

More specifically, what will innovation look like going forward in local marketing and retail? How will it at once address the unignorable concerns about privacy and transparency that have reached a fever pitch of late and stay true to the best of the Silicon Valley spirit, namely, introduce something both new and necessary? How do local innovators move fast without breaking= things? Is that possible?

We at Street Fight want to hear from you, our readers, about the innovation you’re excited about in local in 2019 and your concerns about business practices in the industry in years to come. Drop me a line with your predictions, concerns, and hopes for Local in 2019 at jzappa@streetfightmag.com.

Voice’s Impact on Local: The Knowledge Graph, SEO, Paid Search

We know voice will play a major role in Local in 2019, as voice recognition software gets more sophisticated, “near me” searches skyrocket, and marketers wise up to where the voice-local opportunity really lies in the near future: smartphones. In this article, let’s get more specific. Voice will affect the fundamentals of local search: the Knowledge Graph, SEO, and paid search, for example. Drawing from Street Fight lead analyst Mike Boland’s 2018 white paper on voice, I break down those changes below.

Amazon Plans to Set New Standard for On-Demand by Expanding 2-Hour Delivery

Amazon is planning a substantial expansion of its Whole Foods grocery stores, a move that will aim to put much of the nation’s deep-pocketed customers in range of its two-hour delivery service, Prime Now. Under the proposed changes, reported in the Wall Street Journal, Prime Now would become available from all Whole Foods stores.

What’s Visual Search, and How Will It Play Out in 2019?

While visual search isn’t exactly catching on like fire yet, its evolution is buttressed by powerful developments of late in the tech industry. Among these: smartphones are increasingly ubiquitous, more efficient, and we’re all more accustomed to using them; investment in AI from both big companies and startups is widespread, making machine vision more effective; and augmented reality (AR), a similar modality in which tech overlays graphics onto images captured via camera lens, is taking off. Below are a few ways visual search will play out in local and retail in 2019.

Voice’s Local Impact in 2018 and 2019

Street Fight’s Mike Boland explained in a white paper on voice this year that there’s a number of misconceptions regarding how the medium will play out in local search and commerce, and there’s plenty of research out there to illuminate where voice is really headed. I outline some key insights about voice as brands and SMBs alike make plans to tackle it in the months to come.

Cutting Through the Analytical Clutter: 4 Major Trends this Holiday Season

As just about the final week of 2018 gets underway, it’s worth taking a look at what we now definitively know about this holiday season. Here are the facts about the role of technology in retail during 2018’s holidays.

The Location Angle on Another Bombshell Privacy Exposé from the New York Times

What exactly did Facebook do wrong, and what do its supposed wrongs portend for the future of data-driven, and especially location data-driven, marketing? Here are some major takeaways pertaining to future legislation, likely consumer reactions, and the distinction between data selling and sharing.

Google Testing Restaurant Booking, Foreshadowing Ever Tighter Grip on Local Commerce

The news is an important signal that local-commerce options like Reserve with Google will get sleeker and more dominant in the years to come. And it calls to mind a crucial local-search debate: Will Google SERPs and the many options for engagement with local brick-and-mortars on them effectively supplant the local business website as the crucial interface for interacting with customers?

GMB App Adds Support for Service-Area Businesses

As of late last week, Google is offering an update to the Google My Business app that adds support for service-area businesses. Earlier in November, a Local Search Forum blog post indicated that Google would be adding features to help such businesses with local customers.

Starbucks Partners with Uber to Launch On-Demand Delivery at 2,000 Locations

Starbucks announced on Friday that it’s partnering with Uber to launch on-demand delivery at 2,000 locations. The partnership is a sign of the “near me” local search era for retail, one in which proximity and convenience have become paramount, outweighing even loyalty.

Efficacy of Google Posts Drops Following Relegation to Bottom of Knowledge Panel

Following a seemingly arbitrary choice on Google’s part to move Posts to the bottom of the Knowledge Panel, their efficacy in boosting businesses’ local search presence seems to be dropping.

Digital Ad Trends to Watch in 2019, Mobile to Account for 71% of Digital Ad Spend

Programmatic SSP Pubmatic released on Tuesday morning an elaborate report detailing digital ad trends to watch in 2019. The highlights include a look into how mobile, video, and of course programmatic itself will continue to evolve in the coming year, reshaping the way brands reach customers.

Location Data Industry Gets Huge Wake-Up Call on Monday

Platforms, brands, and vendors benefiting from the reams of location data used to hit consumers with highly targeted ads should be paying attention to a change suggested by Google and Facebook’s appearances before government authorities, a New York Times exposé out Monday, and most importantly the impending arrival of GDPR-like legislation in the United States: 2019 will be the year privacy actually matters, posing a potentially devastating threat to the status quo of the location-based data and marketing industries.

Consumers’ Reliance on Online Reviews, Evolving Rapidly, Is Reshaping Local Search

Recommendations gradually exchanged in person are now flooding webpages, most notably Google’s SERPs. Twenty-seven percent of consumers are now reading reviews of local businesses every day, marking a staggering jump from just 12% in 2017, according to a recent report.

Google Local Services Reportedly Expand to Canada, Signaling Rapid Growth

Launch in 2015 in Silicon Valley’s home court, Local Service Ads have since expanded to a whopping 90 markets in the U.S. and are now making their way abroad, where searches for local services are abundant.

The Numbers on Mobile’s Role in Holiday Shopping This Season

The results of a survey released just last week by mobile ad firm AdColony go beyond the already stale proclamation that the mobile revolution has taken over retail, pointing instead to granular details about just how consumers are using mobile today. We provide the highlights.

Google Reviews Hit with Massive Spam Attempt

Google reviews, increasingly essential to the online search presence of brand and SMB brick-and-mortars alike, were hit by a massive spam attempt last week. At least 2 million fraudulent reviews were posted, according to ReviewFraud.org.