Pay Attention: Vertical Marketers Are Rewriting Local Advertising

When you think of local businesses that advertise heavily, a few specific industries are likely to spring to mind. There’s automotive, retail and real estate, which are all traditionally big spenders that work very closely with local media partners to reach regional audiences. Lately, these verticals have altered the way that they identify and target audience to better align themselves with consumer shifts toward digital media. It’s incredibly important for both advertising providers and their SMB customers to monitor trends in ad spending, because these major verticals are likely blazing a trail that will be followed by other local and SMB advertisers in the very near future.

Automotive is perhaps the greatest driver of change, due largely to how differently consumers shop for cars these days. The reality is that they now conduct the bulk of their research at home online before even setting foot in dealerships; whereas previously they were forced to shop around. That research-heavy focus means in-market consumers might visit a maximum of two dealerships before making purchases.

Auto advertisers need strategies for targeting consumers during that at-home research period, and they need a deep understanding of who visits their dealerships. Reaching consumers before they come to dealerships requires a blend of search and display advertising, using programmatic buying to reach consumers with targeted ads across the web after they’ve exhibited some interest in specific makes or models.

Better understanding the interests and attributes of the audience that actually goes to dealerships is important as well and those insights can fuel this targeting strategy. A recent study by Foursquare sought to identify other locations that in-market auto shoppers visited. These location-based data points can then help advertisers “understand potential customers by understanding where they go, who they are and then reach them at the optimal moment,” according to Steven Rosenblatt, Foursquare’s president. And of course, this tactic extends to any business that still depends on in-store sales, especially retail. Better understanding of the behavior and interests of consumers who shop in their locations allows advertisers to target similar audience segments and divert their ad budgets toward only the best prospective new customers.

Mobile can be used in a variety of ways, so many verticals should pay attention. Restaurants benefit heavily from consumers conducting “near me” searches on their smartphones. As a result, these businesses should be hyper-focused on mobile advertising campaigns that feature both branding and special offers.

Real estate is yet another vertical that can benefit from increased data. Before, local agents and brokers had to rely on print advertising to reach potential customers. Today, access to digital and consumer data signals allows them to better understand where consumers are in their research and buying practice, targeting consumers who are visiting real estate sites and searching for listings. Real estate advertisers can even tap into mobile to serve ads for nearby open houses with in-market consumers.

This is the cutting edge of local advertising. While print and local TV may still account for a big portion of spending, rest assured that mobile and programmatic display are primed to explode with local marketers. The media providers that offer advertising services to SMBs need to be ready to move into new markets and guide their customers there or else they risk losing their revenue to competitors.