Category Archives: Social Media

Local Onliner’s 2016 Trends and Predictions Re Customer Engagement Marketing

Our friends at Belly prompted me with some trend questions for 2016 for the company’s blog. I like where they were going, and responded as such:

What three marketing trends will have the greatest impact on customer engagement?

For the past several years, we always talk about (X) year being “the year of mobile.” And there has been tremendous movement towards a mobile centric environment for consumer information and services. But 2016 will represent a tipping point for mobile as people will increasingly use their mobile devices for commerce oriented features. Ewallets, mobile coupons, QR code info and card linked loyalty will become increasingly integrated into shopping activity. In 2016, there will also be something entirely new: The ability to pay all or part of purchases with loyalty points from different programs. We’ll see how that flies with merchants who don’t want to participate in such “coalition” marketing.” I suspect it will take some time to really take off.

There will be more social-oriented marketing, less “advertising.” SMBs are taking a social centric point of view in marketing. In many cases, they are beginning with a free Facebook account rather than a Yellow Pages ad or a Google AdWords campaign. Many go on to buy advertising on Facebook, or work with other social media or traditional media. But their real focus is on mastering social marketing. They are more likely to work with a marketing service that helps them get there.

We also expect to see more easy ordering and fast delivery options. Many local merchants have never really put much thought into easy ordering and delivery, whether they are restaurants, home services or speciality retail. But in many categories, national players are increasingly offering free or cheap delivery. It will be important for local merchants to match their efforts. The cost of delivery can be offset by more impulse buys, more upsells and customer loyalty.

There’s been a lot of discussion surrounding beacon technology and its impact on the customer experience. Will this technology be exclusive to the big brands or more accessible to the small business owner in 2016?

Beacons are one way to determine who is in the store and to target users with special offers based on their browsing and purchase behavior. The technology is relatively inexpensive, but managing it and acting on it takes some resources, so SMBs are less likely to use them. The exception: SMBs that buy into loyalty and CRM programs that include beacons as part of the subscription.

How crucial are brand evangelists for a business’s success? How can a small business go about building this base of loyal customers?

Brand evangelists who help SMBs with social media and commerce are increasingly important, not only for acquiring new customers, but for engaging existing customers. Getting existing customers back in the store and buying more is mission # 1 for many SMBs.

What social media trends do you predict will influence customer engagement?

Loyalty programs that include cash back, points flexibility and special perks; Opt in Messaging from favorite merchants that feature offers.

Last year we made a list of predictions for marketing trends in 2015. Which were fulfilled and which missed the mark?

A: Individualized Messaging

Not yet. Most programs don’t really have the volume of merchants or knowledge about their customer to offer truly individualized messaging. Most messaging will continue to be targeted on the general basis of locality and gender. In 2016, we might see more messaging based around recent purchases.

B: Powerful Storytelling

Better and better. Storytelling is getting increasingly powerful, especially as more merchants add video, which remains the media channel with the highest engagement. We’ll look for more “organic” testimonials via reviews in 2016.

C: Reputation Monitoring

Continues to Grow, but shifting. Reputation monitoring via social media tracking continues to grow in importance, but is increasingly integrated with presence management (web site hosting, listings updates etc.). It is all a major part of the new marketing.

D: Trackable Customer Acquisition / Lead Attribution

Critical. Attributing the right lead to the right marketing channel is a key part of the new presence management environment. With the average SMB now using 7 or 8 channels, and also reconsidering their marketing budget, attribution should shape up as being a top priority for 2016. We also look to see attribution increasingly linked to close the loop marketing, as SMBs do a better job tracking marketing efforts to actual sales, and then re-engaging these with loyalty efforts, new offers etc.

E: Customer Retention

Critical. More SMBs are planning to engage loyalty programs in 2016; and many existing loyalty program users are upgrading them from paper-based programs. From the consumer side, however, there are a glut of loyalty programs and they don’t often use them on an ongoing basis. The challenge in 2016 is to keep consumers interested and engaged.

Sneak Peek at BIA/Kelsey NEXT Show: 6 Things I’m Watching For

“End of Big” Author Nicco Mele Keynotes BIA/Kelsey NEXT Dec. 9-10

BIA/Kelsey’s December event has been local’s flagship, and always ahead of the curve in all of local’s iterations. It has been widely imitated, but never totally duplicated! I‘ve been producing it for a long time, but this year, handed it off in midstream. I’ll be moderating some great sessions, though, and the conference team has ended up with 52 hand-picked speakers, a Tech Expo and two full days of programming. Here are some of the things I’m most excited about:

1. The New Cut on Local and Community. Local’s still at the concept stage in a lot of areas. Why think small? Two leaders from USC’s groundbreaking Annenberg School (my alma mater) will point to the new directions in separate keynotes. First up is Nicco Mele, the author of The End of Big (2013), a tour de Force on “radical connectivity.” He’s also fresh from his stint as deputy publisher at The LA Times, where his team’s efforts to seize new initiatives in local had already produced major new revenue streams. He’ll have a lot to say about what’s going to work. Leading off Day 2 is Dr. Karen North, Director of Online Communities, a dynamic presenter who is focused on Millenial applications and behavior – you’ve heard, perhaps, these kids live on the phone?

2. Keynotes from Google and Facebook: The latest in local from the two dominators and trend setters in local. Danny Bernstein at Google is set to highlight its deep linking efforts (Google Now). He is sharing the stage with Button’s Chris Maddern and Local Seo Guide’s Andrew Shotland.

3. Big Thinking about MarTech: Big Data’s impact on local cuts many ways – analytics, leads, targeting, planning, But it’s only a subsegment of the broader “MarTech” movement. Those in the know attend Scott Brinker’s annual MarTech conference in Boston. Scott, who also runs ionactive, is going to focus on local and highlight what’s important and why for us at NEXT. He’ll be joined on stage by Surefire Social’s Chris Marentis.

4. The Mobile App-Driven Marketplace. The mantra is that it isn’t really about search right now, because Mobile apps are driving the marketplace. What’s that really mean for local? One of the best analysts I know is Mark Plakias, who has been running Orange’s think tank in Silicon Valley for several years. He’ll be joined by’s Paul Ryan and DialogTech’s Steve Griffith. This will be quite a session.

5. Local and The Internet of Things. We’ve been pondering iOT’s impact on local — when everything is linked, from transit cards to vending machines. So has the new venture, Instersection, which is a partnership from Google Ventures and former Bloomberg head and NYC Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff. CSO Dave Etherington will provide insights on what they are up to. He’ll be joined on stage by Cisco’s Andy Noronha.

6. Close Up on The New Local Marketplaces. We’ve been saying for a long time that local marketing has gone beyond advertising. Now it’s “closing the loop” with transaction data, offer targeting and complete behavioral profiles reshaping the game. Groupon’s Dan Roarty, Microsoft’s Neal Bernstein and MOGL’s Jon Carder share their insights. Cardlinx CEO Silvio Tavares will add data and help me run this session.

Haven’t got your ticket yet? I have a *little* influence and can get you $400 off. Please use this discount code: LOCALONLINER. You may register here.

Constant Contact’s $1.1 B Sale to Endurance: Is There Synergy with Email and Hosting?

Constant Contact, the king of SMB email newsletters with 600,000 overall accounts, has been sold for $1.1 billion in cash to Endurance Holding Group, one of the largest web hosting, presence and domain companies with 4.5 million accounts and brands like HostGator and

The deal – which might be seen an SMB version of Salesforce’s $2.5 billion acquisition of ExactTarget in 2012– potentially represents a way to “save” Constant Contact, which is constantly under attack by marketing rivals. It also represents a way to add to Endurance’s average customer revenue, which currently runs about $10 or so a month (for hosting). CCI typically receives $20+ a month for its marketing services.

For CCI, the deal is the culmination of a multi-year effort that began with its founding in 1995; its IPO in 2007; and a more recent effort to provide comprehensive SMB marketing efforts. Indeed, its stock price fluctuations tell the story of a company that still depends on email in an age of email fatigue, spam and messaging; but remains the envy and target of every SMB marketer.

In fact, CCI has managed –with some success — to move its customers from one that is solely about email to a deeper relationship with extensions such as social media (Facebook ad management) events management, search, loyalty and other services. Via its costly, $65 million acquisition of Single Platform in 2012, it also added presence management, contact management and in some cases, larger customers.

None of the “new” services have been the home run that Constant Contact’s email services represent. But all of its efforts act on Constant Contact SVP Joel Hughes’ observation at BIA/Kelsey’s SMB event in Denver this September that “the two changes in SMB marketing are the advances in audience targeting, and the rise of native advertising.”

Can the two companies ultimately help each other? Endurance is not known as a deep integrator among the 40 companies it has acquired over the years, and its brand names don’t have high awareness outside of their customer base. In terms of brand awareness, it is no “Go Daddy.”

But its brands have deeply loyal customers like me (Local Onliner is hosted by Host Gator). Loyal and trusting customers may be more likely to buy enhanced services. It also has a reputation for low cost customer acquisition. This is a major plus, given that Constant Contact and its competitors in the SMB marketing space have a reputation for high cost customer acquisition.

For the two companies, it also seems like an easy merger. Both companies are headquartered in the Boston area, and already work together as marketing partners. Five percent of CCI’s new customers come from Endurance leads. Endurance says the combination will allow the two companies to reduce duplicated resources, saving millions of dollars a year. The current employee count is 2,500 for Endurance, and 1,400 for Constant Contact.

In our view, the CCI/Endurance combination gets it right in combining presence and marketing. Together, the two features represent the stickiest parts of the SMB marketing arena.

But the combination of Endurance and Constant Contact is going to have to fend off a lot of other players. Many of them will have a higher profile. In fact, extending the platform is the real quest for every company in the SMB space right now. Will email marketing and hosting turn out to be the right anchor for an SMB platform? Or will it be search? Or Deals and loyalty? The list goes on. In this case, timing and execution will be everything.

I like what Constant Contact co-founder and current PagePart CEO Randy Parker told me today – focus on the consolidation of this space. “It really is coming and there will be few companies acquiring the SMB,” said Parker. “The rest of us will just get ‘distributed’ through them.”

Constant Contact CEO Gail Goodman Keynoting at ILM East

As Twitter Streamlines, Does Commerce Make the Cut?

Is Twitter Commerce going to make the cut? Up to 336 Twitter staffers are slated to be let go in a streamlining effort, and many divisions are likely to be impacted. Logically, it would seem that an experiemental area such as Commerce could be back burnered as Twitter focuses on ad contracts with big whales like national brands.

But Commerce, naturally, continues to tempt Twitter and its social media peers. As commerce experiences become increasingly focused on a combination of social media and mobile, it is no coincidence that Google, Pinterest, Facebook, Foursquare have been testing out buy buttons.

In Twitter’s case, its buy now button tests have included key retailers (Home Depot, Burberry), non profits and musicians. The buy now platform has also been fleshed out with a full slate of payment partners (Stripe), ecommerce platforms, and content partners, including social shopping, digital content sellers and fan commerce.

The Commerce divison, which is helmed by former Ticketmaster CEO Nathan Hubbard, also includes a full slate of promotional offers, incentives, rewards, disocunts and other programs for registered credi and dibit card holders – on built on the foundations of Cardspring, which Twitter acquired in July 2014. There is also talk of Twitter developing a marketplace. It may also more tightly integrate with payment companies such as American Express, which are already using Twitter as an offers platform.

As the Twitter Commerce Web page notes, “The goal for all our commerce initiatives on Twitter is simple: make it as easy as possible for businesses to connect directly with, and sell to, customers on Twitter.”

Realistically, to survive amidst the downsizing, all these efforts must be tightly integrated with Twitter’s advertising and marketing efforts – many of which already overlap with analytics, etc. That’s what the company is hoping to acomplish in its Collections pages, which are meant to make it easier for users to find useful information and go shopping. They must also hone in on better sales channels that bring them more local and vertical depth.

Will they get a chance to do it? We’ll see. As returning CEO Jack Dorsey said in his note annoucing the deep layoffs, “The roadmap is focused on the experiences which will have the greatest impact.”

Centro: Boost Demand Side Ads With Full Program, Not Just Programmatic

Chicago-based Centro, which helps provide targeted ad solutions to 13,000 publishers – 4,000 at any given time — says it is refocusing on providing publishers with complete Demand Side solutions that integrate first party data targeting, hyperlocal mobile tools, digital extensions and cross-channel capabilities.

Publishers increasingly want to provide greater reach for their advertisers than they can provide from their own-and-operated (O&O) properties, said Centro SVP Katie Risch and VP John Hyland in a discussion with BIA/Kelsey. “O & O solutions are becoming a smaller share of the mix.”

Centro DSP for Publishers, the new product offering, provides a wide range of mobile, display, video and social campaigns directly through Centro’s platform. An increasing amount of these efforts are automated. “Revenue is going towards self -serve,” said Risch and Hyland. “People don’t go back after they start with self-serve.”

To be sure, programmatic – an automated process of planning and placing ads on the platform – represents a big part of Centro’s evolution. Centro has committed 18 buyers specifically to support programmatic. But programmatic needs to be supported with other pieces.

“We are in an early iteration of programmatic,” said Risch and Hyland. It helps to “close the loop.” But “it doesn’t do enough to support the demand side of the business, which is critical for local targeting. The biggest challenge is how to drive demand. There has to be a human layer; a set of KPIs.”

Centro’s Brand Exchange, for instance, has enlisted 1,400 publishers. It allows auto dealers and other SMBs to call on the company to meet their needs for local inventory. With such services, “we are providing a cohesive media strategy, along with first party data.”

Facebook Focuses Hard(er) on Small Business

Facebook is felt by some to have the potential to dominate SMB online advertising because of its incredibly high organic usage. But the challenge to drive even more SMB advertisers remains. The company currently reports that it has 40 million SMBs with Facebook pages around the world. Two million SMBs are paid advertisers, or five percent of its SMB page holders.

Today, Facebook unveiled several new small business support programs that it hopes will boost its SMB conversion rates. These include a series of local SMB events, the launch of self serve tools and chat and email support.

We got a hint of what was to come during the March 25 keynote by Facebook Director of Small Business Jon Czaja at BIA/Kelsey National in Dallas. During his keynote, Czaja emphasized that Facebook can lift sales results for SMBs by a high percentage if it is added to traditional media ad campaigns.

He also asserted that Facebook does well on its own. He noted that Facebook’s accuracy for narrowly targeted online campaigns is 89 percent, or more than twice as high as the industry’s 38 percent average. Advertising on Facebook provides $8 back for every dollar invested, and a 12x boost in conversion, Czaja suggested.

While Facebook heavily emphasizes self serve for SMBs because they demand it, it is also eager to partner with agencies and others, adds Czaja. “Facebook can’t build everything itself. If there are other partners out there to build on our platform and encourage better performance, then advertisers will be able to choose to go to Facebook or an agency. It’s an ‘All-of-the-Above’ strategy.”

A Look at Amazon’s Entry Into Home Services

Amazon Home Services has been in beta since November and has now formally launched. The service will take on Angie’s List, Home Advisor and a slew of new players in the increasingly crowded home services space (i.e. Pro,com, Serviz, Home Depot’s Red Beacon, Thumbtack and apparently, Google.)

VP Pete Faricy told The New York Times that it now covers more than 700 types of services and has already entertained 2.4 million “serve offers.” A look at Amazon’s map identifies four highly developed core markets (Seattle, San Francisco, New York and Los Angeles) and 36 moderately developed markets (and many more lightly-developed markets.)

All of Amazon’s “hand picked” pros that hope to work with Amazon must undergo background checks, which will cost $50 (plus $40 per employee); have appropriate licenses, and carry insurance. All listings will also feature Yelp reviews as well. Pros will pay Amazon 20 percent for services that cost $1000 or less, and 15 percent above that amount, as well as monthly subscription fees — although those fees are waived through June 2015. The 20 percent fees are comprised of 15 percent service platform fees, and 5 percent transaction fees. The fees and requirements are fairly standard in the industry.

What Amazon brings to the table is its brand and especially, a high volume of consumers. It is currently targeting its customers with an offer of a $20 gift card for first time users. It also has millions of merchant and consumer credit cards in its profiles, which can be a major advantage. Longer term, it has the potential to leverage its Local Offers business, which has been including service offers for some time. Amazon doesn’t, however, have an instant collection of merchants that are pre-inclined to work with it for marketing purposes.

It also doesn’t have the behavioral intelligence that informs its retail services,or its own reviews – although Yelp’s reviews will help it out here. There are always thoughts that Amazon would want to try to buy a service such as Angie’s List or Home Advisor to complement its efforts in these areas.

On the surface, it seems like a stretch for Amazon to enter home services. It could, of course, be an initial failure, like Amazon’s Fire Phone. (or a long term success, like Kindle and Amazon Web Services). But if you are thinking big…services are a key part of the local economy that Amazon is tackling for sales, leads, payments, hosting and other areas.

We note that many of the competitors in the space leverage the new models of Uber-like, Local On Demand Economy that BIA/Kelsey is focusing on at our June 12 NOW event. There is certainly plenty of potential. As Home Depot Silicon Valley head Anthony Roddio noted at our ILM 2014 event in December, “The market is ripe but no one is there yet.” Some estimates have penetration in this segment at under 10 percent.