Big-Box Retailers Prepare To Face Off With Small Business This Holiday Season
Emerging technologies make it easy to buy digital media
Historically, digital marketing was too complicated and time-consuming for the little guy, but that is changing. Facebook's COO, Sheryl Sandberg, acknowledged this difficulty during the company's Q3 2013 earnings call, saying: "It's [been] really hard to get small businesses to use technological products." But with 20 million local small businesses having Facebook pages that are used only for organic distribution, converting that base to paid advertisers is something Facebook is “very, very focused on.” It recently reduced the number of advertising options, made ads look consistent across all platforms and rolled out new ad-buying tools that make it easy to build campaigns based on business objectives such as driving clicks, conversions or app installs instead of buying specific products.
Facebook has also been conducting in-person training sessions with small businesses throughout the country, educating them about their advertising products. Small businesses are also getting a big boost from “Google Offers.” What's exciting about this product is that promotions are delivered based on user intent (what they are looking for), preferences (what they like) and location, and the offer appears as a blue tag symbol next to a local listing for a business.
In addition, new mobile products that target shoppers based on time, location and shopping behavior are also emerging. YP, North America's largest local search, media and advertising company, has relationships with more than 600,000 businesses. It recently launched a new product, Enhanced Mobile Targeted Banner Ads (EMT) which takes geotargeting to the next level by identifying specific users based on past behavior and then serving ads based on past visits/behavior.
Implications for national brands
As major technology companies such as Google and Facebook develop turnkey solutions that make it easy for small businesses to place and optimize digital campaigns, media investments will shift. In fact, Borrell Associates is projecting local digital advertising investments will grow 31% this year. That growth will increase competitive clutter and should motivate national brands to rethink their local marketing strategies. Here are a few ideas national brands should consider:
“Think local.” How can you make your brand locally relevant? Building relationships with local schools, charities and events is a good place to start. By becoming part of the communities you serve, national brands gain an understanding of local market nuances. This, in turn, will help inform what products and services will resonate in the local market.
Capitalize on new mobile products that target shoppers based on their location. This requires going beyond pushing advertising based on where consumers are, but instead thinking about what people are doing based on time and location. For example, if I am getting off the bus at 8:00 a.m. on a chilly morning, I'm not thinking about earning “Shop Kicks” points, but I might be receptive to receiving an ad from a nearby store telling me that they just got a new shipment of winter boots and that they are open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Target specific users based on past shopping patterns, behaviors and locations. This opens up a whole new world of possibilities. What would you say to a customer who visits your store every week? What about a customer who visits your store once a month but a competitor three times a month? Customizing precise messaging and offers based on specific users will significantly improve the effectiveness of your marketing efforts. The challenge will be understanding who you are trying to reach and what messaging will resonate with them.
As technology and shopping converge, making it easy for businesses both large and small to advertise online, the business that delivers the most relevant message at the right time and right place will win this holiday season.