Earlier this week, I had the pleasure of traveling to Berlin to attend the European Association of Search and Database Publishing‘s (EASDP) conference. In addition to meeting with our European colleagues and hearing about the latest happenings in their market, I provided an update on the state of our industry in North America within a panel discussion about current trends in regions around the world.
My presentation focused on how the very definition of our “industry” in North America is different than when I spoke at EASDP’s conference less than two years ago.
As evidenced by the conversations we had at our annual conference in April and recently released LSA research, I discussed how we’re experiencing a transformation where offline is going digital, digital is going local and local is going mobile. Today, our members either are or are considering just about every local media and form of commerce. I proposed that our efforts are creating an entirely new space called “local commerce.”
This space, which BIA/Kelsey estimates will represent a $140 billion opportunity in the U.S. by 2015, is comprised of many players. They range from print and online media publishers and search engines, to digital agencies, reputation management providers, website design and hosting providers, daily deals providers, vertical sites, ad networks and exchanges, e-commerce players – and the lengthy list of suppliers of goods and services to this vast market.
I highlighted three major shifts that we’re seeing in our increasingly complex market.
The first is the rapid growth of mobile devices and mobile local search, which LSA explored recently in our Local Mobile Search Report compiled by comScore. The second is changes in the composition of our business base as SMBs struggle to compete with national and regional chains in part because of their slower adoption of digital media. The third is the growing number of media publishers and agencies calling on local and regional firms, often selling a similar suite of digital services.
I noted that our members are doing things differently in order to overcome these changing circumstances, beginning with simplifying processes— especially for salespeople and their clients.
I overviewed some of the “channel experimentation” taking place; the development of new types of sales teams and retraining; the creation of new self-service, do-it-yourself offerings; and the emergence of e-commerce solutions as product line extensions to lead generating products
I also discussed some examples of innovative marketing and pricing, notably product bundling and cost-per-action activity, as well as more aggressive use of partnerships, particularly around content. I also highlighted the bottom line challenge our industry faces; growing the customer base, increasing the average spend per advertiser – or “share of wallet” – while providing the service levels necessary for customer retention cost-effectively.
At the conclusion of my remarks, I made a prediction that one or a handful of our members will emerge as leaders in this local commerce market – because we deliver a large volume of leads that have high conversion to actions, because SMBs will increasingly look to trusted partners for assistance with lead generation and e commerce solutions as the market fragments and the broad media trends towards mobile and local play towards our member’s strengths.
I believe my remarks were well received by the audience, which was eager to learn about the North American experience. In the coming days, I will share my key takeaways from EASDP’s conference regarding the state of the European market.