One of the emerging technologies driving innovation amid Covid is AR. For example, its ability to add real-life interactivity to e-commerce gained traction in 2020. This could extend to a post-Covid world of “touchless” retail for in-aisle virtual product interaction.
Climbing Pokémon Go revenue is mostly from in-app purchases, where players pay for digital in-game elements to accelerate their leveling up. But Pokémon Go maker Niantic is also looking to diversify its business model with other revenue streams — most notably, local advertising.
Spending hasn’t declined — it’s just shifted. One of the themes we’re seeing is that the standouts of 2020 are those who have shifted with it. We’re talking here about a broad definition of e-commerce — not just ordering things online, but any digital or mobile purchase.
For example, in local commerce, these digital fulfillment models include mobile order-ahead functions in QSR and coffee. They also include curbside pickup for physical goods. And in an even broader sense (and looking forward), they will include touchless or cashier-less retail in a post-Covid era of physical retail.
Snap continues to make moves in local commerce. Historic steps include geo-filters, while more recent activity includes Local Lenses and business listings in Snap Map. These features are notable on their own, but they get more interesting when you view them together and extrapolate to Snap’s local road map.
For example, Snap has more 13-34-year-olds active than any other channel, including Facebook and Instagram. This essentially means Snap can offer SMBs incremental and non-duplicated reach to an attractive audience.
Google continues to double down on visual search and navigation. Its latest move came last week with updates to its Live View visual navigation to help users identify and qualify local businesses. This follows soon after its Earth Cloud Anchors that will let users create digital content on physical places.
Both developments tell us something about what may well be the future of local search: augmented reality-enhanced visuals.
We expect to see a continued rise in touchless retail shopping and contactless transactions à la Amazon Go Stores.
But one of the less-discussed technologies in the Covid-advantaged bucket is self-serve mobile restaurant ordering. The idea is that ordering and paying from your table can reduce server interaction — which has Covid and non-Covid benefits considering it can save diners’ lives and their time.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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?
I’ve been looking for discoveries that could be blessings in disguise. Just like remote work, these aren’t new concepts but ones that are now given the chance to shine. For example, I spend lots of time analyzing virtual reality, which could be a valuable virtual event tool.
But more to Street Fight’s main focus, what discoveries or business approaches could benefit local commerce? One of them could in fact be VR’s cousin, augmented reality. Its ability to help people visualize things or facilitate “see what I see” co-presence could help local service pros socially distance.
During the Covid-19 outbreak, we’re seeing tech companies step up to the plate in a mixture of altruistic and opportunistic moves. That’s everything from Comcast removing data caps to Amazon removing its paywall for streaming kids shows. But what about local specifically? Again, that’s where businesses are getting hit most.
We’ve seen moves in the local space over the past week from Facebook, Yelp, and Foursquare. Though there are several others, we’ll drill down on this representative sample. We’ll also give a shoutout to Google for its work to free up human and compute resources for local listings updates, covered Monday by Damian Rollison.
CCPA isn’t the only factor that will impact privacy and data collection. There are less-discussed and potentially more significant variables like the death of browser cookies and other tech-centric measures. Especially for location tracking, private sector influences and accelerants loom.
Apple is far ahead with Watch and Airpods, which may have sold 3 million units since Black Friday. Google meanwhile acquired Fitbit to buttress its wearables play. Amazon and Microsoft launched wearables lines in the past quarter, and smaller players like Bose and Snap are planting seeds for a wearables future.
There’s an underlying driver for this activity that goes back to the perennial analyst exercise of “following the money.” This is all about extrapolating product roadmaps based on tech giants’ motivations. This is often to future-proof their core businesses or diversify revenue in the face of maturing products.
While Amazon is challenging the duopoly, when zeroing in on local advertising and commerce — Street Fight’s hallmark — as opposed to driving eCommerce, another challenger may loom: Uber. In fact, we have a longstanding prediction that it will blitz local advertising by strategically building from the Trojan Horse that is “in-ride mode.”
This theory is based on the fact that Uber has your captive attention during rides, given in-app utilities like mapping and ETA. Furthermore, it knows where you’re going (think destination-based promotions). In the aggregate, it has lots of behavioral data for a richer mosaic of audience-targeting gold.
Amazon has a knack for moving into new vertical segments and then applying its logistical mastery and economies of scale to carve out margins and undercut incumbents. Then, it doubles down by scaling things up to its signature high-volume/low-margin approach. As Jeff Bezos ruthlessly admits, “Your margin is my opportunity.”
The latest place for this to unfold is retail. No, we’re not talking about Whole Foods, though that’s part it (more on that in a bit). We’re talking about Amazon’s transformation of the in-store experience — upending and streamlining logistics just like it’s done in shipping and cloud computing.
Here are some predictions for how Amazon’s disruption of retail via licensing of its Go technology will upend the industry.