Meeker’s Internet Trends 2018: Local Gets a Seat at The Table

Local and SMB-oriented companies get a lot of attention when they scale, get sold and/or IPO – or threaten to. But “local” itself has never really been a big part of the global digital equation.

Local media and directory companies, in fact, have been viewed as part of media’s inevitable deterioration. And digital local’s IPO’d entities – such as Yelp, Groupon, Angie’s List, Web.com, GrubHub and Yext – are mostly seen as side attractions to major players like Microsoft/Google/Apple/Facebook/Amazon.

Major trends within tech and marketing haven’t had overwhelmingly “local” characteristics (i.e. mapping, mobile search, big data, AI, messaging, payment). But this year, per Mary Meeker and her Kleiner Perkins team’s eagerly awaited Internet Trends 2018, local and SMB finally gets a seat at the table – perhaps even the adult table.

Why? Because many tech and socioeconomic trends are pointing towards more data and increased personalization. And increasingly, that means “local.”

Data, mapping, mobile and social, in fact, have allowed “Local” to be delivered to marketers with enough precision to finally be real. “Omnichannel” retail gets a lot of attention but it is just the tip of the iceberg.

As Meeker points out, sixty percent of a consumer’s “last ten purchases” have been digital. That, in itself, resets digital’s ultimate reach via social media, reviews, loyalty programs etc. SMB-oriented companies like Shopify are making an impact. As she notes, “Near Me” searches have grown by 900 percent since 2014.

Hence we have local’s debut on Slide 21 of this year’s deck – one that uses NextDoor’s growing (but largely unmonetized) consumer count to highlight that “offline connections are driven by online network effects.”

NextDoor is featured again a few slides down. Meeker notes that “Personal + Collective Data = Provide Better experiences for Consumers.” Her examples include Waze, UberPool, Snap and NextDoor.

Social media trends are also pointing to a heightened awareness of local and SMB power. When items are researched on social media, 11 percent lead to direct purchases and 44 percent more eventually lead to a sale. Ecommerce has moved from transactional to personalized, she notes.

The bigger picture? Digital’s expansion from media, entertainment, retail and Home Services to other vital parts of the economy. There‘s already been an impact on transportation (Uber, Lyft, BMW’s ReachNow); Travel (Expedia, Kayak, Airbnb); housing (Zillow, Redfin); and food sales and delivery (OpenTable, GrubHub, WholeFoods.)

Next up? Meeker predicts it will be increasingly consumerized vertical pillars such as health care. Already, healthcare startups around the world have sought to grab an advantage via digital healthcare management, on demand pharmacy, women’s healthcare specific solutions interactions and simplified healthcare billing.

It is all unwieldy. This thing is 284 slides, and the special section on China gets a big portion of it. Still, several “next big things” get little or no mention (Internet of Things; VR/AR; green tech; the connected car industry.) We can nit-pick, but it does help us prioritize from the bounty of new generation choices and efforts.