How FlashParking Is Turning Isolated Lots Into Connected Hubs

The parking technology company FlashParking wants to reimagine the way parking lots are managed. But rather than pushing “smart” technology on individual operators, the company is taking a decidedly different approach to decreasing traffic congestion in cities.

Operating under the belief that most technology solutions to urban challenges are unnecessarily complicated, the team at FlashParking is working toward solutions that redirect energy away from smart-city technology. Instead, FlashParking is pushing a system that embraces so-called “dumb cities” — cities planned and built with durable approaches to infrastructure.

German Tech Provider Bosch Developing 3D Displays for Cars

In the long run, this technology could pave the way toward an even more connected car. That means local advertising that could collect more data on user habits and lead drivers toward local businesses when they are on the go. As autonomous vehicles grow more common and sophisticated, the 3D displays could also be used for entertainment or other yet unseen purposes to enhance the auto experience of the future.

August Focus: Local’s Next Battleground is Your Car

Why are connected cars important to Street Fight (and to you)? As we continue to evolve the definition of “local,” one key component of its market opportunity is offline brick-and-mortar shopping. After all, about 90% of all U.S. retail spending, to the tune of about $3.7 trillion, is completed offline in physical stores. That is usually in proximity to one’s home (thus, local).

Could an increasingly digital and connected car influence those purchases when consumers are out and about? This is one extension of the local search that consumers used to do at home but now do on their mobile devices while on the move. The car could become a third point of connection and influence.

Multi-Location Marketers Want to Do More Social Advertising, But One Big Thing Stands in the Way

Unlike search, social is a push medium that marketers can use to reach new audiences. Social can leverage rich ad formats such as mouth-watering images of restaurant dishes, explainer videos for complex products, and eye-catching celebrity or influencer endorsements that are much more impactful and engaging at storytelling than search. 

Today’s local enterprise advertisers know that they should be leveraging the one-two punch of search and social together. One day they will. But until social advertising can offer the same streamlined workflow that can make managing hundreds or thousands of locations as easy as search makes it, social will still lag behind in the local marketing media portfolio. 

The History and Value of Citations, or Citations are Dead, Long Live the Citation

Mihm to Blumenthal: Setting aside the fact that the vast majority of calls you receive from non-Google directories are from salespeople, if you’re paying for an expensive citation service with analytics, compare the non-Google numbers to your GMB Insights. It’s going to be a drop in the bucket.

It’s time that every brand, regardless of size, ask itself whether going beyond Google, Facebook, and maybe Yelp is worth paying any premium. 

If a tree falls in the citation forest and no customers are there to see it, not only does it not make a sound, but Google doesn’t care that it fell.

Mobile Is Always Local: Thoughts on the Future of Online-to-Offline Commerce

The other day, Uber Eats announced a new service that struck me at first as a little surprising but, once I absorbed the idea, seemed strangely inevitable. In select cities like Austin and San Diego, you can now order food ahead of time, monitor your order status, and arrive at the restaurant just in time to begin dining, your table ready and waiting for you. This on-demand dine-in service is meant to remove time and effort from the experience of eating out, and it may also help restaurants fill empty tables during off-peak times by enabling special time-based incentives. 

When I say it seems inevitable that an app would eventually “solve” waiting for your food at restaurants, I have two things in mind. The first is a quote from Twitter co-founder Ev Williams that, to me, strikes at the root of contemporary trends in innovation. The second point I want to observe here is that the highly representative user experience created by Uber Eats is taking place on a mobile phone.

How Long Will Google’s “Calculative PR” Playbook Work in Local Search?

Mihm: The engineering mindset that millions of spammy listings in a corpus of hundreds of millions of legitimate listings worldwide, or a (hundred million?) spam reviews in a corpus of billions of legitimate reviews worldwide, are simply “edge cases” that are beneath Google to prioritize reflects a profound lack of empathy for how their technology impacts fellow human beings — both consumers and especially small business owners and their employees.

Blumenthal: Absolutely agree. And a related problem is that they see customer service in the same context: as an engineering/cost-benefit problem to solve, not as a way to improve their product. As such they see the last 5, 10 or 15% errors in their big data solutions as just a cost of doing business that they have no responsibility to solve. 

July Focus: Retail Transformation in the Amazon Age

Street Fight is rolling into July with the monthly theme Disrupting Retail: a look at how retail continues to transform, driven by competition from Amazon and key trends like “retail-as-a-service.”

But why is this important to Street Fight (and to you)? As we continue to evolve the definition of “local,” one key component of its market opportunity is offline brick-and-mortar shopping. After all, about 90% of all U.S. retail spending, to the tune of about $3.7 trillion, is completed offline in physical stores. And that’s usually in proximity to one’s home (thus, local).

Startups Adapt to Shifting Privacy Standards

Two steps forward, one step back. That’s what it can feel like to be a technology provider in the location marketing space right now, struggling to strike a balance between the demands of brand marketers and growing concerns over consumer privacy and data regulation.

That push and pull is challenging vendors in the location marketing space. At the same time their firms should be seeing exponential growth, data regulations—including the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and California’s forthcoming Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA)—are establishing new rules for innovation.

But some companies are embracing the regulation as a challenge to innovate in its own right.

In the Wake of Spam Reports, Google Focuses on Brand and Small Business Engagement

Google’s calculated risk in creating a low bar for verification works out fine in a world where most business owners simply want to gain legitimate access to their own listings, and most businesses do operate within those ethical boundaries. But as we’ve seen elsewhere at this stage in the evolution of social networks, fraud and deceptive manipulation have become a kind of ghost in the machine, dominating darker sectors of the local marketplace and creating an atmosphere of distrust that may eventually prove more broadly contagious. 

All of this is only possible when lots of activity is consolidated on a few platforms. Just as fake accounts attempting to engineer the 2016 election thrived in the vast and complex Facebook ecosystem, so too has Google’s dominance in local attracted its own horde of opportunists, drawn like moths to its flame. Indeed, fraud in local listings is just the latest in a long history of attempts, from link farms to keyword spam, to manipulate loopholes in Google’s regulations and algorithms.

Google’s Fake Listings Problem Gets More Attention—and May Spur Regulation

Blumenthal to Mihm: It seems to me that Google could take the fake listings issue off the table by seriously investing in cleaning up the fake listing and fake review issue. I just don’t think that they think that way.

At a minimum, as the company that has the monopoly in the local space, Google faces the expectation and responsibility to provide a service that truly serves the public and businesses. And they seem to forget that.

5 Privacy-Focused Data Marketplaces

Just 27% of adults feel like they have “some control” over how their personal data is used by mobile apps and services, according to a recent survey by Mobile Ecosystem Forum. The desire to have more say over how personal data is used is leading to a new technology vertical, as next-generation data brokers put together marketplaces where consumers can offer up their own data to brands in exchange for cash and other lucrative incentives.

Here are five examples of services that consumers are using to take control of the data they share with advertisers and keep their private information private.

Google Antitrust: Is It Enough for Yelp?

Mihm to Blumenthal: I’m not averse to the idea of the government regulating Google’s practices in Maps or local search, but it feels like rewarding Yelp in particular is not going to bring consumers any particular benefit, nor will it meaningfully benefit small businesses, as Elizabeth Warren seems to indicate is a primary goal of her plan.

If anything, Google has gone out of its way to help small businesses compete in its search results with the introduction of the local pack and the Venice update, whereas small businesses continue to rate Yelp as poorly as any company in tech.

Consumers Still Do Not Understand How Companies Use Their Data

More than one year after the implementation of GDPR in Europe and with CCPA looming, consumers still have no idea how and why companies like Google and Facebook collect their data. That’s according to a global survey by mobile marketing firm Ogury, the largest of its kind to ask consumers about their understanding of marketing and privacy.

Nearly 40% of respondents in both Europe and the US were ignorant of what GDPR is. But more significant is that 52% of consumers report not understanding how their data is used.

Behind the Rise of Data Transparency

As technological capabilities accelerate and data regulations increase, brands should home in on data privacy. Focusing on data transparency will ensure you stay out of legal trouble while also earning more loyal, trusting customers. Consumers understand that you have data — it’s how you use it and share your practices that can make or break these important relationships.

June Focus: Pursuing Privacy

The privacy movement will have ripple effects throughout the media and advertising worlds that Street Fight covers. In fact, you could argue that privacy issues are most sensitive whenever we’re talking about content or ads that are targeted based on the user’s location. So how is the location-based media world dealing with these shifts? This is the question we’ll strive to answer throughout the month.

Foursquare Acquires Placed, Announces $150M in Funding

Foursquare and Placed are location tech’s new power couple.

The location intelligence firm is acquiring Placed, which had previously been bought by Snap for its top-rate online-to-offline attribution solution, and the two will offer one of the most powerful attribution solutions in the location industry, to be called Placed powered by Foursquare. 

As ad tech faces tougher times and a privacy-driven crackdown on data collection and ad targeting practices, more mergers and acquisitions are likely to transform the industry’s terrain. Teaming up and stockpiling as much first-party data as possible, thereby eliminating the need for less compliant modes of data harvesting, will boost the longevity of some firms while others flounder.

To Share or Not to Share: How Gamification is Swaying the Modern Consumer’s Loyalty

Although 94% of C-suite leaders consider customers’ data to be of paramount importance, privacy continues to be a hot-button issue. Data privacy practices have come under increased scrutiny with the passing of regulations such as the General Data Protection Regulation, aimed at protecting individuals from the misuse and exploitation of personal information. Even as consumers continue to debate the tradeoff between convenience and control, one thing is clear—they are craving a more intuitive and personalized experience. How, then, can companies reconcile the differences and walk the tightrope as they acquire a 360-degree view of their audience?

Gamification is one path forward.

Visual Search Moves Beyond Experimentation and Into Prime Time

After years of experimentation and broad discussions about how visual search would someday take hold, it’s clear that the future has arrived. Visual search has moved into the mainstream, and companies like Pinterest, Instagram, and even Google are paving the way for consumers to engage more deeply with the products they find online.

As visual search moves into the mainstream, questions are intensifying over what impact the medium will have on SEO and traditional search metrics.

Who’s Winning the Reviews Race? How Do We Define Winning?

In their latest Street Fight conversation, Mike Blumenthal and David Mihm examine the state of the local reviews space and assess the reasons for Google’s dominance. “For me, the question of the future is whether Google’s behaviors will impact the remaining vertical sites over the next 10 years,” Mike writes.