Category Archives: Mobile

Local’s New Year: Some Thoughts and Predictions

Over the years, we’ve seen some major paradigm shifts in the transition of local marketing to digital. In 2003, it was the rise of Google search as applied to small business –to this day, the biggest thing that ever happened to local. In 2007, the paradigm shift was the rise of Groupon and prepaid deals as a way to drive customer acquisition. This opened the door for all kinds of non-advertising marketing, from Facebook and Twitter to Card Linked Offers.

Right now, mobile is THE paradigm shift – both as a media channel, and as a geolocation device (Mobile hasn’t been a factor yet as an ewallet. But that is sure to come, with a whole new set of implications.)

Nothing happens in 12 month cycles, but this is what I see happening in 2014:

Hyperlocal Fails to Win Destination Status, Gets a Better Life as Feature
Hyperlocal seems so compelling; contextual content that can draw users who can be microtargeted on a block by block basis. But on a super hyper local basis, it hasn’t scaled as a business model or as a compelling destination site. AOL’s Patch is reported to be winding up as an independent entity, and National Local hybrids such as Examiner.com haven’t made an impact either. The one remaining super hyperlocal site is Next Door Networks, which has raised a $100 Million war chest. The site is based on user generated content and local cells of 30+ users. It is a much cheaper model than Patch’s local staff. But will it win sustained participation from users? My bet is that it won’t. But does that mean that hyperlocal is dead? In fact, hyperlocal is everywhere – in reviews, posts, articles, maps and enhanced listings. Its use is sure to grow.

The Sharing Economy Spawns Multiple Vertical Sites
One of the big local breakthroughs has been the development of shared listing sites for apartments (Airbnb), vacation rentals (BRBO) and rides (Uber). In 2014, we expect to see shared listings become more ubiquitous, with multiple entries per verticals, and the addition of many more verticals. We also expect to see an entire ecosystem grow around these sites. As AirBnB’s Joe Zadeh noted at Interactive Local Media in San Francisco, solutions are being added based on need. For instance, Airbnb has developed a freelance photographer program because hosts need good pictures of their apartments.

Social’s Impact In Local Is Too Fragmented, But Dedicated Word of Mouth Sites Make a Dent
Social leaders like Facebook and Google+ have tremendous volume at the local level. Facebook, alone, has over one million SMB advertisers. But its local usage is so fragmented that local can’t be a real focus at the vertical level. Review-based sites such as Yelp and Angie’s List get closer to the mark, and have broadened their reach beyond restaurants and service professionals, respectively. But they leave plenty of room for smaller Word of Mouth sites that can specialize in certain sectors (i.e. Plumbers) and really dig in. Look for some of the industry’s most innovative leaders try to break through with new models in 2014, including Justin Sanger with SupportLocal; Gib Olander with Local Viewpoints; and Matthew Berk with Lucky Oyster.

‘Big Data’ and Non-Advertising Marketing Boost Local Leads
The ability to base marketing on user engagement and behavior is a fantastic opportunity. Big data, specifically, mixes and matches various data bases to determine the likelihood of engagement. It has been successfully applied to support advertising campaigns. But can users be targeted as a substitute for advertising budgets? And looking forward, can transaction activity, store inventories and user location be wedded to search behavior as part of e big data? This is a greenfield opportunity in all respects. What we are looking for is the transformation of retail email and social lists to leads and promotions. Look for big data players such as Radius Intelligence, Retailigence, xAd, Urban Mapping and LocalBlox to showcase new opportunities in leads and geotargeting.

The Hunger for ‘Attribution’ Drives Big Data and Transaction Marketing
One of the biggest problems for local marketers is proving attribution – especially as users effortlessly move from a banquet of “spreadable media” – everything from articles to email to social media posts to YouTube. It is another reason we are keen on transactional media and loyalty media – the receipts say it all. Look for the gatekeepers of transaction media and loyalty marketing–everyone from Living Social to First Data, Bank of America, MasterCard, Amex , Google Wallet, PayPal and Square – to edge their way into consumer marketing.

Online Shopping Goes Local via Delivery
Interactive Local Media has largely been defined by tech factors, such as geofencing . But the growing use of online by commerce giants such as WalMart, The Home Depot, Amazon and eBay; their development of regional warehouses and delivery networks; and use of Facebook Connect-like one stop shopping suggests a new front in the war for local commerce. The imposition of local sales taxes also suggests a level playing field with local businesses. eBay’s purchase in 2013 of the Shutl courier service, and its expansion to multiple markets, really showed where this might lead.

Happy New Year everyone, and thanks for reading and being part of the local community.

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Gannett Digital Marketing Solutions Rebrands as G/O Digital

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Gannett Digital Marketing, the umbrella division of Gannett that includes ShopLocal, BlinQ, PointRoll, DealChicken, Key Ring and Clipper Magazine, relaunched today as G/O Digital. The new unit – which is adding a massive hub in a Chicago skyscraper, and is specifically kept separate from Gannettt’s media properties — is lead by longtime ShopLocal head Vikram Sharma. It also adds ecommerce vet Mark Maranacci (Edo, Google, Yahoo) as ShopLocal President, where he will lead the sales marketing team interacting with national brands and retailers.

The rebranding was announced today at ShopLocal’s 8th Annual Retail Summit in Chicago. Gannett CEO Gracia Martore, at the event, said that the effort is part of “transforming Gannett into an innovative media and marketing powerhouse,” scaling local audiences “to a national level.”

Staples SVP of U.S. Stores Alison Corchoran spoke about the value of having all the Gannett services under one roof. The company views Gannett as a major marketing partner, along with companies such as Constant Contact, Google, Groupon, LinkedIn, Facebook, Cheetah Mail and Mcgarry Bowen.

Corcoran noted that Staples now has 1,500 stores, but it isn’t about the stores so much as being a “b2b marketer” both online and in the stores. With the rise of search, Direct Mail, email marketing, social media, ecommerce and loyalty services, she noted that the goal posts have dramatically changed.

While Staples continues to focus on “easy,” “the meaning of ‘easy’ has changed. Retailers have more dots to connect. Gannett’s new focus on integrated offerings have really helped the Staples team get over the dual dilemma of being “very data driven but risk averse,” she says.

ExactTarget: Email Remains ‘Backbone of Customer Engagement’

Is email still the anchor for customer engagement, given the rise of mobile, social media, texting, websites and big data? With people joking that they don’t even know what email is, you have to wonder.

ExactTarget, which specializes in email marketing and other personalized marketing programs, argues that email is more central than ever before. And apparently, so would SalesForce.com, which agreed in early June to pay $2.5 Billion for the company.

Last week, at San Diego Interactive Day, ExactTarget’s Joel Book laid out the case for email, which he calls “the backbone of customer engagement.”

Email is still more widely used than any other channel, he argues. And the rapid spread of smart phones have greatly accelerated email’s capability. “Mobile is the new direct response,” he says. It is “all about marketing to the individual.”

Email also enables marketers to own their own audience. It’s a long way from 1976, when marketers used to “rent” an audience by buying SRDS books.

The challenge for marketers is to make sure that their email programs are well integrated into all their other programs, including social media, websites and mobile. Shoppers “want a seamless shopping experience,” says Book.

The best way for brands to respond to this need is to use direct response methods such as email to build “small, highly engaged communities.” Brands such as Scott’s Lawn Care have made a science of doing exactly that, tying personalized emails to entire programs for garden care.

GrubHub, Seamless Merge; Mobile Drives Food Ordering Growth


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Online restaurant ordering and discovery giants GrubHub and Seamless have agreed to merge their operations, creating a single company. Chicago-based GrubHub currently serves more than 20,000 food ordering establishments in 500 cities, while New York-based Seamless serves more than 12,000 food ordering establishments in 400 U.S. cities plus London.

GrubHub CEO Matt Maloney, who co-founded the company in 2004, keeps the CEO job. Seamless CEO Jonathan Zabusky becomes president. Zabusky recently came on to spin off the operation from Aramark, the corporate catering giant.
The two companies had been going head-to-head in a number of their markets. Both share a vision of the food ordering business being rapidly transformed via smart phone.

We had an extensive discussion with Zabusky in March. At that time, he noted that Seamless had two million regular users and grossed $85 Million in topline revenues in 2012. It projects $100 million in top line revenue in 2013, with major growth seen in coming years.

The company has had a strong foothold in the corporate market, providing food ordering and delivery to law firms, tech firms and investment houses. But its major effort has been focused on the consumer side, which has been experiencing year-over-year growth of 60 percent.

The company has 300 people in three major offices, as well as field based sales. While it is best known for its strong business in Manhattan, where it recently opened a 28,000 square foot facility, Zabusky notes that the company has a strong presence in 13 major U.S. markets. He added that Seamless had “a major national expansion strategy,” and was well-situated to execute it with a customer care center in Salt Lake City.

The key to growth, said Zabusky, was to keep selling new products and features to its food establishment partners. “We don’t make money unless they make more money.”

Zabusky noted that Seamless has been processing electronic order forms, and providing electronic terminals, along with table side ordering apps. Generally, its focus is to move restaurants away from fax machines, and away from phone calls and paper, which he says remains the segment’s biggest competition.

With Seamless, restaurants move up to a “multi-platform portal,” where they could “view, confirm and track orders,” he said. Restaurants also leverage Seamless and its vast network for discovery and retention. For instance, it offers different deals on different days to keep customers coming back. “It is very different than the daily deals space,” he said.

The industry’s transformation via mobile, however, is expecially key. Zabusky says it represents 40 percent of the total business, up from 10 percent a year ago. But for online food ordering, mobile doesn’t just represent a phone. The company’s best customers use the PC-based Web, phones and tablets, he says. “Thirty percent of the mobile volume comes from the iPad.”

After the merger is completed, major competitors for the combined company will include Living Social, which has recently bet big on online food ordering; Delivery.com, which claims a roster of almost 10,000 restaurants in 50 cities; and Eat24.com, which covers 20,000 restaurants in 1,000 cities across the country.

Payments 2013: New Payment Options Forcing Banks, Others to Change

Disruption happens. In the local space, we’re seeing it happen with Yellow Pages and newspapers. Banks are seeing it happen as well, which will cause a major change in the way that customers keep track of their money, buy goods and services and stay “loyal” to merchants.

At NACHPA’s Payments 2013 in San Diego this week, speakers discussed how the move to digital is impacting banks and their relationships with customers and merchants – and how the payment space is evolving.

Keynoter Brett King, CEO of Moven,, an online bank. suggests the biggest sea change is that customer relationships aren’t determined by anything that goes on at the branch. “Nine of 10 customers can’t remember getting advice at a branch,” he notes. “By 2015, digital interactions with banks will outnumber branch interactions by 300 to 1.” And branches will only be visited once a twice a year.

“The mobile phone is undoubtedly the next banking platform,” says King, citing a Gartner forecast showing that 70 percent of GenY will be “mobile banking first” by 2015, and that 50 percent of all customers will be using mobile as their primary channel by 2016.

The other part of the equation is the rise of prepaid debit cards, which is growing 25 percent a year, which checks are shrinking 4 percent a year. The prepaid debit cards are evolving into smart accounts for some users that can tally total spending in a category – and even show areas to cut back on.

Smart accounts are about putting context in payments – good spending versus bad spending. It might show, for instance, that the daily $10 Starbucks fix is adding up to $280 a month. “Instead of making it an impulse decision, make it into a planned purchase,” he says.

“It is all about getting rid of friction,” adds King. The correct analogy is Uber, which provides cashless car service. By linking payment accounts and wallets to the cloud, merchants are increasingly positioned to add offers, loyalty programs and other incentives.

Banks, however, haven’t reduced friction with their online products. “We have simply reinforced it online,” says King, in words of warning. “We haven’t seen the industry embrace mobile as the bank account.” Meanwhile, there are “a lot of players coming in to create new infrastructure, with new rails, new pipes.”

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LSA 2013: Mobile Promotions Show True Value

Ads aren’t just valued for bringing in calls and walk ins. Local businesses increasingly place value on consumers looking up maps and directions, or participating in loyalty efforts, notes SuperMedia Director of Mobile Development Chris Folmer, who was speaking on a panel at The Local Search Association conference April 16 in Las Vegas. “There are lots of ways to drive true value,” he says.

Loyalty programs represent a real growth opportunity. Consumers are already engaged with the client. They need to maintain the relationship,” says Folmer. He notes that SuperMedia is rolling out a number of new loyalty programs. The programs are great acquisition tools. They are “really good to talk to new clients about. They really like it.”

The traditional backbone of loyalty programs have been text messaging, he adds. Texts really deliver results, and are “exploding” for SMBs. The key is to “get people to want to engage in content.” But they can also be tricky because they are so easy to unsubscribe from. “It only takes one bad offer for someone to opt out,” he notes.

Speaking on the same panel, Placecast SVP Blair Swedeen also emphasized strong results from text-based programs. Promotions sent out when consumers are near a store result in a 2.5 x boost in frequency, and a 22 percent purchase rate. There is also a 5 percent increase in average order value, he notes.

Increased smartphone penetration has greatly expanded the universe for smart offers, says Swedeen — smartphone users will also get push offers on their Apps and emails. “Most customers want delivery across all channels,” he says.

Edo Interactive VP Jeff Fagel says that texts in fact have already been surpassed by smartphone emails. Apps are also proving to be very effective. Merchants that have a promotion on a mobile app are seeing a 20 percent boost in their response rate.

Redemption rates are also soaring. A program that Edo ran with Subway, for instance, achieved a 15 percent redemption rate across the board. It drove the value of purchases up 30 percent. Moreover, 40 percent of those customers who redeemed offers came back at least once or twice in the next 90 days.

The key is driving “the right offer to the right customer,” and keeping it simple, adds Fagel. “There is nothing as impactful as ‘thumbs in faces,’” he says, noting that mobile offers will see 10-15x redemption rates of traditional coupons.