Today’s reality for small businesses is that the technological world they have to compete in gets more complicated each year as changes take hold across e-commerce, appointment booking, SEO, online advertising, mobile, social and customer relationship platforms. Add to that a small business owner’s need to figure out email marketing programs or attract positive online reviews, and the multidimensional challenges become increasingly clear.
Here are 10 predictions around these dynamics, which also include a few other items to keep your eye on in the local online marketing space.
Booking and scheduling tools will continue to get consolidated into larger marketing automation platforms. Consumers increasingly expect to be able to book services online the way that they purchase goods online. While some companies like ZocDoc, Uber and OpenTable offer booking services in specific verticals, the migration to comprehensive online booking has just begun. We can expect to see more deals such as Demandforce and Full Slate, which aims to popularize booking services across dozens of service industries.
CRM systems will emerge with better social tools to help business owners leverage online presence across the Web, mobile, social and email. Companies including Constant Contact, Main Street Hub and Yodle are automating time consuming processes associated with social media management. As social sites like Facebook add reviews as a key feature, tasks such as responding to customer reviews or creating special offers for customers will become simpler and quicker though integrated CRM/marketing platforms. Companies like Rallyverse will also look to provide ways to generate relevant content for local business to engage their customers
Pure SEO companies will fade away as a result of Google secure search. Marketing companies that offered services in online advertising and SEO gained another competitive advantage after Google announced it would begin making search ranking and keyword data private. It essentially means that many pure SEO companies lost their primary source of data. Pure SEO companies will be significantly impacted as a result of no longer being able to access information they used to be able to get for free.
E-commerce will begin to widely expand to local, main street retailers. E-commerce companies are targeting the small business market to sell transactional solutions. Consumers increasingly want to transact directly from a website or social channel and local businesses will find that they’re negatively impacted if they don’t adopt commerce software to fulfill consumer demand.
Sales, and not just leads, will become the key metric in assessing the effectiveness of small business marketing campaigns. Companies who can bridge the gap between local marketing campaigns and real revenue stand to gain credibility and competitive advantage, distinguishing themselves from dozens of vendors who purely sell leads. It’s all about closing the loop and that’s accomplished through revenue
Google will remain the dominant horizontal player for local search, but consumers will increasingly go vertical. Google will continue to be the most used search engine and, as such, will still be the most valuable place on which small business owners need to establish an online presence. However, resources like ZocDoc and startup companies such as home services platform Home Joy, also means industry-specific searches will increase in popularity
Daily deals companies will face more deflation in 2014 and will continue to search for footing in new markets. The daily deals industry has faced consumer list fatigue for a long time and efforts to turn these companies in new directions has helped, but not fixed the problem. Even in 2014, daily deals will generate revenue but industry growth is another matter and big changes are still needed to get these companies back on course.
Retention and acquisition marketing will continue to blur. Companies that currently provide local business tools are diversifying their product mix or are partnering or merging with other businesses to become more of a single platform solution. GoDaddy completed several acquisitions to round out its small business solutions portfolio in 2013 and more companies can be expected to do the same in 2014.
New social platforms for niche audiences will continue to emerge. Similar to Snapchat and Path, new social platforms with an eye on niche audiences will secure investment dollars and grow in popularity with consumers. Platforms with a particularly critical mass of consumers will be the target of acquisitions by social media giants such as Facebook, Google, LinkedIn and Twitter.
Continued growth in consumer and SMB mobile usage will force companies to accelerate integration of mobile workflow into existing products. Local marketing and business service companies will invest to integrate mobile apps heavily into their product’s workflow to tap into SMB’s and consumer behavior change. Upstart companies with a mobile-first approach will have an opportunity to disrupt existing players and become prime targets for acquisitions.