Entering Q4 means many things, but to us it points to the media and commerce world’s annual culmination. That’s right — in this time warp of a year, we’re entering the holidays. Considering the oddities of 2020, what will this year’s holiday season look like? We know for sure it will not be normal.
Answering that question will be Street Fight’s October editorial focus. Branded with the cheeky title “Home for the Holidays,” (title credit: Damian Rollison), this month’s focus will be defining the holiday shopping dynamics of a socially distanced and sheltered-in-place world. What will be different?
When we return to shopping in physical stores, will that look different? It’s hard to imagine there will be as much much merchandise handling as before. Will it be a “touchless” environment? And if so, which technologies will power the touchless future?
Let’s dive into a few candidates.
Apple surprised the local search world last month when it announced local business reviews in Maps. Similar to its other search-based efforts, Apple formerly relied on partners like Yelp for local listings and reviews. But now, as part of its broader data-driven Maps overhaul, it will phase in original content.
Much has been written about this within the local search publishing world and analyst corps, including my colleague Stephanie Miles’ article on how brands can prepare for Apple Maps reviews here on Street Fight. So in the interest of treading new ground, what less-discussed clues lie in Apple’s recent mapping moves that can triangulate its direction?
What does “Mapping the Future” entail? As a primary tool for consumer local search and discovery, mapping continues to undergo UX innovations and structural changes. We’ll examine these areas as well as mapping’s interplay with local search and SEO strategies.
Though mapping is more of a Street Fight staple than a trending topic, market signals indicate that the timing is right. In fact, we already got started last month with a look at Snapchat’s moves into local mapping — not just UX upgrades to Snap Map but also self-serve advertising for local businesses.
Earnings results that rolled out from retail giants over the past week further demonstrate what our next normal will look like. Specifically, Walmart and Target both hit record numbers. This is partly a function of Covid-era circumstances, but it is also due to each retailer’s active e-commerce momentum.
The earnings validate consumer acclimation to digitally infused local shopping. What’s more, other retailers and down-market businesses will look to replicate this success. This can all therefore be viewed as a leading indicator for retail’s next normal.
Snapchat’s 200 million users can now use Snap Map to find businesses in addition to finding friends. These two activities can go hand in hand if friends are discovered nearby on the map when users are planning local adventures.
But what matters most for local is that Snap will now let businesses promote themselves in the map interface, adding a key option for local advertising. This will happen on a self-serve basis for both SMBs and multi-location brands.
Location intelligence is expanding beyond its well-known uses for advertising (ad targeting, attribution, etc.), supporting enterprises in a number of other ways. That includes supply chain management as well as decisions about where to open another store location.
All of the above applications of location intelligence are fueling UberMedia, our latest guest on Street Fight’s Heard on the Street podcast. UberMedia CEO Gladys Kong says that this expansion of location data’s utility was already underway but has accelerated in the Covid era.
As we roll into August, it’s time to establish Street Fight’s monthly editorial focus. After our standard ritual (no animals harmed), we’ve settled on “The Next Normal.” Forced to adopt new technologies just to survive, some local businesses have experienced a decade of evolution in just a few months.
So the question is, how will newly elevated local businesses transform the local commerce landscape? If a large share of the local business universe has raised its game, what will be the new “bar” in local media, advertising, and commerce? How should tech providers adjust to new demand signals?
What about the tech adoption accelerants happening on the supply side? Tech giants who provide marketing and operational tools for local businesses have been in hyperdrive over the past few months to roll out new Covid-era features.
Here are three areas where we’re seeing the most activity … and where we could correspondingly see the most local business evolution.
Recent announcements from Snap and Apple at their respective developer conferences point to future connections between AR and local commerce.
Snap’s Local Lenses will let developers create geo-anchored persistent content that Snap users can discover through the camera interface. This will also include the ability for users to leave persistent AR graphics for friends to discover. The use case that Snap has promoted is more about fun and whimsy, including “painting” the world with digital and expressive graffiti. But the development could also include local storefront information.
Moving on to Apple, it similarly continues to show its AR aspirations. The latest is GeoAnchors for ARkit, announced at WWDC. These evoke AR’s location-based potential by letting users plant and discover spatially anchored graphics that are persistent across sessions and users.
AR’s impact on local is playing out in many ways, including Google’s “internet of places” aspirations to let you point your phone at storefronts to reveal information like business details and reviews. It’s also happening in brand advertising activations to let consumers visualize products in 3D through mobile AR interfaces.
M7 founder Matt Maher tells us there are several advantages to this new flavor of brand marketing. AR’s immersion creates strong consumer engagement, which can be seen in metrics like session lengths. In-store activations mean lower-funnel impact near the point of purchase.
After huddling with the editorial team about our July theme, we all agreed that it could be time to mix it up a bit. So we’re returning to a meat-and-potatoes theme in our lineup: Targeting Location. This will allow us to talk about something else while acknowledging Covid-19’s still rampant status.
What do we mean by “Targeting Location?” A central issue for location-based media and commerce, this is the moving target of how to pinpoint and optimize strategies around device location. It includes topics like location-targeted ads, building audience profiles, attribution, paid search, and location data strategies.
We’ve all heard of out-of-home advertising: staples such as billboards and subway ads. Audio is one of the oldest forms of advertising, from terrestrial radio to pandora. Shopper marketing has been around for decades to steer in-store shoppers with last-mile messaging.
These are all common staples of local advertising. But combine them, and you may have something interesting. This combination of OOH, audio, and shopper marketing is what Vibenomics calls audio out-of-home. It gives retailers a way to more intelligently monetize the soundwave inventory in their locations through targeted messaging.
Could forced adoption of alternative shopping methods like curbside pickup lead to user acclimation? Will millions of shoppers get exposed to the merits of these streamlined options and like what they see? Will new habits be born that sustain throughout normal times?
If so, these technologies — along with virtual-office enablement — could benefit from this period as a blessing in disguise for exposing their value propositions. But who stands to benefit most? We’ve identified five local commerce tech areas to which this could apply.
Digital gets all the attention these days. And rightly so: it legitimately has more robust capability to do things like target audiences and measure results. But we often forget that print media still holds advantages like premium status and deeper engagement.
The ideal approach in advertising is to cherry-pick the best of both worlds. This is where MNI Targeted Media, with a specialty in premium print channels like magazines coupled with targeting expertise, stakes its claim to relevance. MNI director of planning and strategy, Tommy Shaw, joins us on the latest episode of Heard on the Street (listen above).
As the country starts to re-open and recover (some places more quickly than others), we’ll shift our focus to cover specifically how that’s happening. And what better vertical to represent local business recovery than retail? It will be a leading indicator for several other local commerce verticals.
So we introduce our June editorial theme: Retail Recovery. The goal: to chronicle the steps local businesses are taking to reemerge from locked doors and empty streets. Who’s doing what, and what can we learn from them? By “them” we mean businesses and the tech providers that support them.
Bringing new dimension (literally) to location data is the field of “3D location.” This essentially takes typical lat/long coordinates and adds a Z-axis. It brings new meaning in the form of elevation, which comes in handy in places like high-rise buildings and shopping malls.
This is where Polaris Wireless hangs its hat. The company uses several inputs like barometric pressure to pinpoint mobile device locations using all three dimensions. This can have many use cases such as helping emergency responders show up to the correct floor of a building.
When most people hear the term “out-of-home” advertising (OOH), they think of old-school billboards and bus kiosks. Those are still staples of the category, but its growth and innovation are being defined by other approaches at the intersection of physical media and digital targeting.
“People instantaneously think billboards, but it literally can be wrapping a ferry going to a music festival for a brand and throwing a party on said ferry,” said Quan Media Group Founder & CEO Brian Rappaport on the latest episode of Street Fight’s Heard on the Street podcast (listen above). “If you do out-of-home the right way as a brand, you’re going to hit that audience you’re looking to hit. That’s the challenge for me: finding the right fit for so many of the unique brands I work with because really none are the same.”
I’ve worked from a home office since 2002. Forced into it — and initially opposed due to unfamiliarity — I didn’t like the isolation. But after acclimating, I became more productive, happier, and healthier than in any previous office job. Now, 18 years later, I may never go back.
One question is if that same realization will sink into corporate ranks now forced to #WFH. Could adjusting to working from home be a silver lining for some industries? In being forced to try new ways of doing business, could we discover habits that work better than older conventions? How might this principle play out in local businesses?