Local Onliner’s Top 10 List of Local Services and Features (2016-17)

All of us in local marketing have had awkward conversations with the local plumber or vacuum repair shop that could care less about Yelp, Google, Facebook or Groupon. But they are in the minority. Just 22% of SMBs aren’t using digital marketing this year, per InfusionSoft.

Some national franchises also haven’t figured out how to target locally. Most, however, are getting on board.

Which local channels and features are making the biggest impact – either solo or as part of the “platform” of local enhancers and enablers now available? Here’s Local Onliner’s 2016-17 list of what’s going to make a difference. Do you agree?

1. Social: Freemium-based social is local’s biggest driver. BIA/Kelsey estimates that over 57.4 % of SMBs are maintaining Facebook Pages; 28.7% maintain LinkedIn profiles; and 20.9 percent are up on Twitter. Many SMBs are now using a Facebook page as a primary element of their digital presence, akin to a Website. We’ll see a lot more on the social front in 2016-17, especially from Facebook’s less than $30 mix of mobile and Web-based products – including Instagram and Facebook Messenger.

2. Search Engine Optimization: SEO remains a key driver for local, but new tricks are being deployed to stand out. Everyone’s competing for the same space and working with more SEO-friendly resources (i.e. reviews, content, video). The best way to cut through the local clutter is simply to double down, stay focused and invest in a wide range of local channels – not just Google.

3. Omnichannel: Some local marketers have gone off the deep end with an “all digital, all the time” approach. Their idea of multichannel is to offer digital, and increasingly, mobile solutions for such features as shopping, scheduling, search, advertising and promotions. The truth? Many of these channels would also be enhanced by integrating with old media such as TV, radio and print. In many cases, They still carry more weight and bigger audiences.

4. Mobile Display and TXT: Mobile advertising tends to mean email, txt, messaging and display – and a lot of it is geo-sensitive. Roughly 80% of Boomer and GenX business owners text with customers about business-related topics. But there’s plenty of room for growth, as mobile marketing via display and txt ads remain a low priority. A Flok survey found that just 6% of SMBs are using mobile display and txt is a “primary” marketing channel.

5. Geo-location: Mobile’s big driver right now is geo-location, which targets users and places for advertising, place marketing and services. According to Unacast, 54 % have gone geo via GPS and Geofencing; 28% via WiFi; 16% via NFC. Accuracy, however, just isn’t good enough yet. The LBMA says that 65% of businesses complain about it. That should improve dramatically in 2016-17.

6. Messaging: Messaging is “in” and emails and social media are out. Right? We don’t agree that email and social media are ready to be kicked aside in favor of messaging platforms. But opportunities abound for SMBs to leverage messaging for so-called “conversational commerce,” including promotions, live support and transactions. Mssaging apps such as Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Kik and Slack are poised to move beyond their peer-to-peer roots and dig into conversational commerce. Most are assisted by “chatbots” that automate responses, post pictures and enable promotions and sales.

7. Mapping: With the rise in mobile usage, maps have been considered so important that a number of agencies have emphasized “mapvertising” – ads and offers contextually placed in maps – as a key element of SMB marketing. One of the greatest strengths of maps (and directions) is they let marketers know exactly where consumers are going. In some cases, they also reveal when consumers will be going. Here’s a fairly safe prediction: mapvertising will become much more important in coming years (although it will probably be called something else.) Indeed, several marketing concepts are in development that integrates maps with local offerings. These include local delivery services and “Connected Car” concepts. SMBs are also beneficiaries of being included in specialized maps that can be filtered, perhaps as color-coded “heat maps.”

8.Online video: Video for SMBs is entering a new generation, as it becomes more oriented towards online and mobile and leverages cheap and easy video tools. Now, it is up to SMBs to rethink and get more engaged with their video strategies. Just 17.5 percent of SMBs have video on their Website, according to BIA/Kelsey. Another 12.3 percent have video posted on YouTube. Facebook, Vimeo and Twitter also appear to have gained some traction. Video provides an extra added value for SMBs – it drives up their search ranking. Video can also be easily attached to emails and promotions, and greatly drive open rates, click-through rates and the length of Web site visits.

9. Marketplaces: One of the bigger concepts in the new retail is the development of marketplaces, which represent a shift from “shopping” at a single store – or buying a dedicated Groupon — to a broader notion of “always on” marketplaces. In the new marketplaces, everything is constantly compared, analyzed and reviewed. The marketplaces mentality apply to a broad range of tech features, including search and discovery; promotions; inventory; payments; loyalty; pickup and delivery; and maps. In this environment, it is up to the SMB stores to determine the extent of their participation. They can provide their goods and offers in the marketplace, or simply take advantage of the platform technology to better understand their customers and new ways to market to them and engage them.

10. On Demand: With the emergence of services like Uber, we’ve been looking at entirely new “on demand” models for acquiring local customers. These are more about “get it now” and less about the “search and find” directory-like models that have driven traditional SMB marketing channels. As it turns out, many local verticals are not ideally suited to go through an “Uberification” – Home Advisor, for one, concluded that less than 16% of its home services customers would opt for an on demand solution. But other local verticals such as lodging, food order and emergency car repair will continue to see some impact.

One thought on “Local Onliner’s Top 10 List of Local Services and Features (2016-17)

  1. Here’s a good comment from longtime local media leader Steve Barth

    Good list and valid comments. However, hard to generalize because different advertisers have different needs. Not just the type of business but whether they aggressively need new business, need to retain existing, what their competitive set looks like, etc. Unfortunately for most businesses the elements on this list indicates complexity and sales reps selling single product solutions. As you indicated most of the time they need a blend of traditional and digital for maximum effectiveness.

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