What Is Local: Part CXXII

I was talking just a moment ago to Marketing Sherpa’s Stefan Tornquist, who was asking me about inserting a question re local into an online survey they are doing. We digressed into an interesting discussion of what local is really about. Back to the Local Paradox post below . . .

Direct mail is worth more than $50 billion annually in the US. This is all about demographic and local targeting. When you enable more precise targeting online than IP/DMA/Metro area then you get into buying neighborhoods that represent certain populations brands are interested in reaching: Hispanics, families with kids, people with incomes over $100K and so on. (Trulia just did a version of this with its new ad network; YouTube is adding demographics to its “insights” reporting.)

Imagine a car OEM that wants to target all its would-be buyers in the US online. They fit a certain profile and may be concetrated in certain metro areas. How would it do this? Local targeting of course (once the sub-DMA level capabilities kick in). Advertisers aren’t there yet, however, and they don’t fully understand this opportunity.

The search engines don’t fully understand the opportunity either or they’d be working to build out the capability and educating their advertisers accordingly. By adding Skyhook Wireless’ technology to a toolbar (think Yahoo, Google, MSFT, ASK) this could be done today. Also registration addresses and default location settings allow this today. Think of all the branding dollars that suddenly might look at SEM quite differently if these capabilities were in place.

That’s one side of local. The other side is the point of sale.

Leading people to where they can buy something and/or recognizing that most purchase behavior is offline is the other half of the true local opportunity. That involves the question of tracking and inventory feeds. Those challenges are being addressed in various ways. The inventory data is being syndicated and that will only grow over time. However, the tracking question remains one that can’t be perfectly answered and will require a patchwork of solutions: directions lookups, phone tracking, coupons, mobile response and so on.

What I’m trying to get across here is that local sould be seen as the biggest and most important opportunity online — once the advertisers clue in and the technologies develop to the point where targeting can be more precise.

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