Earlier this month, the Local Search Association held our first-ever “Think Tank” event in New York City. The gathering, which was the first in what will be an ongoing series in major U.S. media markets, is part of our new effort to bring together local advertising leaders on a more frequent basis to discuss new ideas and trends in our industry, as well as foster deeper relationships between partners and competitors alike.
Our communications manager, Joe Morsello, and I were pleased to host executives from notable companies including Google, YP, Yelp, xAd, UBL, Kenshoo, LocalVox Media, MPayMe, MRY and IAB for an informal reception and dinner at The Lion restaurant in the city’s Greenwich Village.
The evening, which began with brief introductions, was followed by discussions by attendees about current and future opportunities in our industry.
While our conversations spanned numerous topics, below are several insights that grabbed our attention:
- While location is the start of local advertising, there are countless other considerations to explore. The group discussed how the next phase of targeting will use data that shows consumer behavior and preference.
- Word of mouth continues to be critical in local. Word of mouth is still one of the strongest influences for consumers on where to spend money locally. Local SMBs need help determining how to increase word of mouth with their marketing programs.
- Display ads – like TV commercials – lead to consumer actions outside of clicks alone. Display ads lead to online searches, phone calls, and store visits, among other actions. The challenge we all face is how to successfully measure those actions.
- Mobile usage isn’t confined to people on-the-go. In fact, a large share of mobile usage takes place within the home.
- Consumers are hungry for a more “3D” local experience. Alice Hazen, National Client Partner at Yelp, noted that consumers want local search tools to “give me what I want (that I didn’t know I wanted), right at the moment I need it.” Consumers want – and expect – that local tools will anticipate their next moves and purchases.
- Local involvement is key for larger retailors. Alice discussed that on Yelp, national/multi-location advertisers are more successful when store managers get involved and individually represent the company.
- Most ads currently provide only one experience, when there is an opportunity to provide many more. Peter Minnium, Head of Digital Brand Initiatives at IAB, said that while our industry is good at targeting ads by audience and demographic, we miss a lot of other local cues. He noted that even though our industry has access to a growing amount of data, we haven’t seemed to figure out how to use all of it to our advantage.
- Last Mile is everything that happens between targeting by location and consumer action. Peter discussed how local advertising today requires more context and data at each stage of the path to purchase in order to be successful.
- Local businesses want face-to-face interactions with local advertising providers. Chris Travers, President and Co-Founder, UBL noted that when SMBs find out they can’t meet a sales person in person, they are immediately turned off.
I want to thank everyone who participated in our first “Think Tank” event. The feedback we received from the group was extremely positive. Many who attended enjoyed the opportunity to network and discuss relevant industry issues in an intimate local setting.
We’re already in the planning stages of our next event – this time in the Windy City of Chicago! – and looking at how to incorporate ways to improve the sessions so that they are as useful and productive as possible.
We’ll keep you updated on future “Think Tank” events, so stay tuned!