10 Local Marketing Predictions For 2015

By:  Court Cunningham

2015 promises to be another interesting year in the fast-changing local online marketing space. We have just seen the rollout of Amazon Local Services and can expect numerous other companies to jump into the fray. Technology providers jostling for a bigger slice of the local pie will keep raising their game by offering better and more comprehensive services to help small businesses. And that can only be good news for entrepreneurs who are laser-focused on growth.

Much of what happened in 2014 has set the stage for 2015. Jeff Bezos’s new offering—which lets consumers find, schedule and pay for local services using the familiar Amazon shopping cart—is just one representation of a growing trend around online booking that we saw in 2014 and will continue in 2015. Another case in point is the successful launch of HubSpot CRM, which illustrates the ongoing move towards more integrated CRM systems for small businesses, and helped contribute to a successful IPO for HubSpot.

This is just the start of what you need to know about local marketing in 2015. Here are 10 trends that we can expect to see in the next 12 months.

1.  Booking payments and scheduling keep moving online. Many consumers don’t want to pick up the phone to make an appointment anymore—or pay for a service in-person they have booked online. They expect small service businesses to let them do these tasks online—with the same ease with which they buy things on Amazon. Players like Full Slate—which book services for a variety of industries—will pick up momentum in 2015. And expect to see continued growth in industry specific-sites like Uber, for ride sharing; ZocDoc, for medical practices, and Open Table, for restaurants.

This trend isn’t lost on key players like Angie’s List and Yelp. They’ve both added widgets to their profiles that let visitors book appointments with the businesses that appear on their sites.

2. Social media management gets simpler. CRM providers have realized there’s money to be made in making it simpler for clients to respond to reviews on social media sites. As a result, more CRM providers are closely integrating their services with social media marketing platforms. To speed things up, sites including Constant Contact, Main Street Hub and, yes, Yodle, have already automated more of the processes involved with this. Expect even easier solutions that are more integrated with mobile in 2015.

Meanwhile, content marketing through social media will get easier. More options like Rallyverse, the content curation and publishing platform, should be springing up on 2015.

3. Small business marketing metrics evolve. With many businesses focused on growth, they increasingly value help in closing deals above simply getting leads. Local marketing providers who can deliver actual revenue to them on a platter will have an edge over lead-gen firms.

4. “We are the Uber for X” pitch keeps working—but not for everyone. We’ve already seen that the Uber model works for purchases that don’t take a lot of forethought, like cab rides. More players in other industries will try to use the Uber model to win their own customers in the coming year. New players range from venture-backed Urgent.ly, which offers roadside assistance, to house cleaning site Homejoy and heavily funded competitor Handy that connects users to handymen.

However, the jury is still out on whether consumers will be comfortable using these types of sites for higher-consideration purchases—especially those where service providers will come to their homes. I expect that services like house cleaning won’t be as big as people think.

5. People recognize there isn’t a difference between marketing to acquire customers—and retain customers. Small businessowners are tired of using separate tools for acquiring customers and retaining them to generate revenue, particularly when there’s such a strong correlation between the two. For example, a positive review on Facebook can be leveraged with both existing and potential customers. Expect to see more small business marketing providers broadening their tools—and hot competition to offer the best marketing solution in a box.

6. Johnny-one-notes fade. “Point solution” companies—ranging from email newsletter firm MailChimp to social marketing provider Sprinklr—have brought some useful services to the marketplace. But increasingly firms that offer just a single marketing service will die, get acquired or merge, as small business owners turn to technology that help them on many fronts rather than dealing with the complexity of multiple point solutions.

7. “Do-it-with-me” service model sets the pace. Many marketing applications of the past were so complicated they drove away users. Recognizing this, more providers will shift to a do-it-with-me service model, where they teach a local business how to tackle key processes such as getting more reviews or building a strong social media presence, in an easy-to-follow approach. Small businesses will be turned off by “do-it-for-me” models that don’t enable them to maintain their brand identity and interact authentically with their customers.

8. The Empire strikes back. The Yellow Pages of yore, made of dead trees, may have had their day but the brand itself still has tremendous firepower. Expect YP.com to become a threat to Yelp and Angie’s List in 2015. Recent research by comScore for YP found that adults who search on the site are both more engaged and commerce minded than searchers in general.

9. Reviews become even more powerful. If small businesses are not paying attention to online reviews for their business, it should be a priority in 2015.  Seventy-eight percent of consumers’ purchasing decisions are influenced by online reviews, according to the market research firm Ipsos.Google favors business profiles with lots of reviews in local search, and in 2015, reviews will also be increasingly essential to conversions on sites such as Facebook.

10. Square will launch new products—but fight to win attention for them.No doubt the heavily-advertised brand has had a giant impact on the mobile payments space. But as it adds new products it is likely to face intense competition. Recently, Square announced it was offering Snapcash, an app that lets Snapchat users store debit card data and send money to friends. Square has also started offering gift cards through merchants and has acquired Caviar, a startup that allows customers to get food-delivery from restaurants that don’t otherwise deliver.

Are you doing and or agree with any of these predictions for your business in 2015?  Leave a comment below!

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