The future of local discovery

Columnist Brian Smith discusses some of the recent developments and technology that will impact local search, both in the short term and the long term.


We’ve entered an exciting time for local marketing. Big Data, digital assistants, augmented reality and beacons will fundamentally change the way users discover locations. As Bob Dylan so aptly pointed out, “The times they are a-changin’.”

As such, local marketers and advertisers need to start thinking about how they’re going to change along with the times. Here’s what you need to know about the future of local discovery.

Big Data: ‘Who’ informs ‘where’

Proximity is the primary ranking factor in local searches. That’s not likely to change. After all, what’s nearby is the fundamental aspect of local discovery.

What is changing, however, is the filter that sorts out, ranks and presents those nearby locations. What filter, you ask?

It’s you.

Going forward, local discovery will function as proximity filtered by your individual preferences. The person searching will inform what locations are shown.

In truth, this is nothing new. Google, Bing, Safari and Yahoo have been personalizing search results for some time through tracking your browsing history. What is new is the sophistication of artificial intelligence and Big Data analytics.

With the burgeoning Internet of Things, the amount of customer and behavioral data is growing by the day. Even if Congress hadn’t cleared the way for internet services providers (ISPs) to sell your data, what marketers and advertisers know about customers was only going to increase thanks to the growing data fiefdoms of Google, Facebook, Apple, Amazon and Microsoft.

For good or ill, the ability to use that information to target the right customer with the right message at the right time is maturing. In fact, even back in 2012 ,Target had the capability to use data mining to predict the pregnancy of a teenager before her father could deduce the news himself. Big Data has come a long way since then.


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