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Local Economics Through the Lens of Elected Officials and Organizers

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Local Economics Through the Lens of Elected Officials and Organizers

The author’s views are entirely his or her own (excluding the unlikely event of hypnosis) and may not always reflect the views of Moz.

If you want to serve local business owners, allying your company with their deepest needs matters. Recently, the Institute for Local Self-Reliance provided a valuable opportunity to hear directly from localism advocates and elected officials about small business owners’ goals and obstacles. If your brand is marketing software or other services to this largest sector of American commerce, I highly recommend setting aside an hour this week to watch the whole recording (embedded at the end of this post). 

Today, I’ll briefly recap the information from this event that stood out to me as most illuminating, in hopes that you will be able to evaluate these messages to help you find common cause with clients and customers. 

The present state of local economics in the U.S.

ILSR’s co-director, Stacy Mitchell, began the webinar by remarking that, just a decade ago, it was not common to hear much political talk surrounding small businesses versus monopolies, but that this is changing. Advocacy groups are gaining strength and political factions like the 100-member progressive caucus are increasingly getting out the message about the present state of U.S. local economics, which Mitchell summed up this way:

“Today, we know that economic concentration and the losses that we’ve seen both for working people and for small businesses have had devastating effects on communities; that the decline of small businesses and the growing concentration across our communities is really driving racial and economic inequality, ultimately undermining our democracy. And we know that the primary driver of this is corporate power, whether it’s the power these corporations wield in the market or the political power they have to rig government policy in their own favor and to undermine their smaller competitors.”

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What local business owners want

Chanda Causer, the Co-Executive Director of The Main Street Alliance, gave this list of priorities she hears voiced by the SMB owners she speaks with every day:

The question was raised as to what business owners and organizers can do to get the public to care about these requirements, and about local economic health. Visiting Fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy, Brandi Collins-Dexter explained, 

“I think that everybody I talk to cares about this; big business has such a ubiquitous role in our lives that I think people just don’t know what to do about it.”

This quote will resonate with every local search marketer who has been reading survey stats for the past two years that claim three-quarters or more of the public is committed to shopping more locally, and yet, sees how all of our choices have been whittled down to a frustrating dependence on Amazon, Walmart, Target, or dollar store-type options.

I believe that the majority of Americans genuinely do want to shop small and care sincerely about the communities in which they live, but when we need to buy a blender or a book, we increasingly face the stark reality that our town’s independent hardware store or bookshop was driven out of business by economic policy. Meanwhile, our intelligence is repeatedly insulted by monopolies portraying themselves as local heroes and using offensive scare tactics to warn SMBs and the public against any legislation that would limit their profits. 

Solutions, obstacles, and hope

If industry surveys and local advocacy groups indicate that the public already cares about the survival of local business owners, we’re already part of the way to solving the dilemma of the economic role of small businesses being cut by 50% over the past 40 years. 

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What emerged from the ILSR event was a three-part approach to realizing the society that surveys say we want.  If implemented, it would take local business owners on a journey from a place of fear to a place of respect and protection.

Education

First, Ms. Causer emphasized the need for continuing dialogue and education, encouraging individuals to take the time to speak about their concerns with their own neighbors, concerns like the effects of monopoly on the community. An educated public is one that can bring pressure to bear on representatives.

Pro-local legislation

Secondly, Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, who represents the Seattle area and part of King County, is focused on a legislative approach. She is the vice-chair of the subcommittee on antitrust, which conducted a 16-month investigation into the operations of tech monopolies. She introduced HR 3825, designed to prevent corporations like Amazon from demoting merchants on their platforms while simultaneously preferencing their own cheaper product lines – a practice that has been devastating to small entrepreneurs. She is also attempting to directly address the dire needs of all business owners (and the general public) for healthcare amid the pandemic with her HR 1976 Medicare for All bill. As she stated, “The way that local communities do well is to have a thriving small business economy.”

However, Assemblymember Ron Kim, whose district has the largest proportion of small business owners in New York State, was frank about the obstacles standing in the way of the needs of local business owners and communities being met: 

“As long as we’re spending, in a place like New York, $7-8 billion a year in tax breaks to subsidize the growth of mega-monopolies and big companies who, in return, donate millions and millions of dollars to executive officers and governors and mayors to keep this game going, we’re going to have a continuous problem.”

Make bribes illegal

This means that the third, and most essential, element in the three-part dynamic is to make it illegal to bribe political candidates and elected officials. Without this stipulation, even the most caring and educated public will find its needs ignored, and pro-local legislation will continue to be defeated by corrupt officials who have been paid by corporations to create policy that serves them. 

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The scenario may seem hopeless, but it isn’t, because you — who work in tech amid the long-shadowed boulders of monopoly — are reading this article and have a voice. Your co-workers have voices, too, and can advocate for your brands developing authentic allyship with clients and customers. 

Our industry has published volumes on the necessity of building relationships with the communities we want to serve. It’s a worthy aspiration, which hinges on listening well and demonstrating solidarity. Honest chats with independent business owners produce stories like Assemblymember Kim’s, about how one of the oldest Korean-American restaurants in his community is becoming a worker co-op to be able to continue operating in a broken economy.

You’ll hear family stories like those of Ms. Collins-Dexter, whose great-grandfather was forced off his land by a powerful tobacco trust, and had to start over again as an auto mechanic whose shop became a major source of community aid during the Great Depression. 

You’ll hear neighbors like Ms. Causer explain that 68% of respondents surveyed by her organization want to talk about monopoly, and that she’s advocating for people tp start singing the union songs again — that our grandmothers sang.

And you’ll hear the local business owners whom Congresswoman Jayapal said would only give comments to her antitrust committee in private, because they so fear punishment by the monopolies.

The takeaway

The next time you’re asked how to build out the stages of your customer’s journey, consider asking your team and bosses to begin by donning the shoes of a local business owner. They’re the people in your community who are living in real fear of being put out of business by national, state, and local policy, and of being made invisible by powerful platforms in daring to speak out. Empathy for this plight could be the start of the most genuine relationships your company has ever developed. It could even be the basis of a coalition of industry agencies and SaaS groups bringing their own, collective pressure to bear on public servants, to insist that we finally do get money out of politics and re-balance our economics to prioritize societal well-being.

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As a local SEO, I’ve often looked at Google’s local guides program. There are roughly 150 million of these community interpreters globally, and they write an average of 62% of the reviews you read. That’s a lot of people with a lot of potential power, if they ever chose to organize on behalf of the local businesses they so abundantly grade. Why would they do that? Because there is little left to review when a local business landscape is reduced to just one or two monopolies. There is no fun or joy in that.

I think Brandi Collins-Dexter is right about good people not knowing what to do, and I suspect a lot of that feeling of powerlessness is rooted in a sense of isolation. But, just like there are a lot of local guides, there are a lot of tech workers, and together, we can help build the hope we seek from emboldened collaboration. 


Watch the recording




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Battling for Attention in the 2024 Election Year Media Frenzy

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Battling for Attention in the 2024 Election Year Media Frenzy

Battling for Attention in the 2024 Election Year Media Frenzy

As we march closer to the 2024 U.S. presidential election, CMOs and marketing leaders need to prepare for a significant shift in the digital advertising landscape. Election years have always posed unique challenges for advertisers, but the growing dominance of digital media has made the impact more profound than ever before.

In this article, we’ll explore the key factors that will shape the advertising environment in the coming months and provide actionable insights to help you navigate these turbulent waters.

The Digital Battleground

The rise of cord-cutting and the shift towards digital media consumption have fundamentally altered the advertising landscape in recent years. As traditional TV viewership declines, political campaigns have had to adapt their strategies to reach voters where they are spending their time: on digital platforms.

1713626763 903 Battling for Attention in the 2024 Election Year Media Frenzy1713626763 903 Battling for Attention in the 2024 Election Year Media Frenzy

According to a recent report by eMarketer, the number of cord-cutters in the U.S. is expected to reach 65.1 million by the end of 2023, representing a 6.9% increase from 2022. This trend is projected to continue, with the number of cord-cutters reaching 72.2 million by 2025.

Moreover, a survey conducted by Pew Research Center in 2023 found that 62% of U.S. adults do not have a cable or satellite TV subscription, up from 61% in 2022 and 50% in 2019. This data further underscores the accelerating shift away from traditional TV and towards streaming and digital media platforms.

As these trends continue, political advertisers will have no choice but to follow their audiences to digital channels. In the 2022 midterm elections, digital ad spending by political campaigns reached $1.2 billion, a 50% increase from the 2018 midterms. With the 2024 presidential election on the horizon, this figure is expected to grow exponentially, as campaigns compete for the attention of an increasingly digital-first electorate.

For brands and advertisers, this means that the competition for digital ad space will be fiercer than ever before. As political ad spending continues to migrate to platforms like Meta, YouTube, and connected TV, the cost of advertising will likely surge, making it more challenging for non-political advertisers to reach their target audiences.

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To navigate this complex and constantly evolving landscape, CMOs and their teams will need to be proactive, data-driven, and willing to experiment with new strategies and channels. By staying ahead of the curve and adapting to the changing media consumption habits of their audiences, brands can position themselves for success in the face of the electoral advertising onslaught.

Rising Costs and Limited Inventory

As political advertisers flood the digital market, the cost of advertising is expected to skyrocket. CPMs (cost per thousand impressions) will likely experience a steady climb throughout the year, with significant spikes anticipated in May, as college students come home from school and become more engaged in political conversations, and around major campaign events like presidential debates.

1713626764 529 Battling for Attention in the 2024 Election Year Media Frenzy1713626764 529 Battling for Attention in the 2024 Election Year Media Frenzy

For media buyers and their teams, this means that the tried-and-true strategies of years past may no longer be sufficient. Brands will need to be nimble, adaptable, and willing to explore new tactics to stay ahead of the game.

Black Friday and Cyber Monday: A Perfect Storm

The challenges of election year advertising will be particularly acute during the critical holiday shopping season. Black Friday and Cyber Monday, which have historically been goldmines for advertisers, will be more expensive and competitive than ever in 2024, as they coincide with the final weeks of the presidential campaign.

To avoid being drowned out by the political noise, brands will need to start planning their holiday campaigns earlier than usual. Building up audiences and crafting compelling creative assets well in advance will be essential to success, as will a willingness to explore alternative channels and tactics. Relying on cold audiences come Q4 will lead to exceptionally high costs that may be detrimental to many businesses.

Navigating the Chaos

While the challenges of election year advertising can seem daunting, there are steps that media buyers and their teams can take to mitigate the impact and even thrive in this environment. Here are a few key strategies to keep in mind:

Start early and plan for contingencies: Begin planning your Q3 and Q4 campaigns as early as possible, with a focus on building up your target audiences and developing a robust library of creative assets.

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Be sure to build in contingency budgets to account for potential cost increases, and be prepared to pivot your strategy as the landscape evolves.

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Embrace alternative channels: Consider diversifying your media mix to include channels that may be less impacted by political ad spending, such as influencer marketing, podcast advertising, or sponsored content. Investing in owned media channels, like email marketing and mobile apps, can also provide a direct line to your customers without the need to compete for ad space.

Owned channels will be more important than ever. Use cheaper months leading up to the election to build your email lists and existing customer base so that your BF/CM can leverage your owned channels and warm audiences.

Craft compelling, shareable content: In a crowded and noisy advertising environment, creating content that resonates with your target audience will be more important than ever. Focus on developing authentic, engaging content that aligns with your brand values and speaks directly to your customers’ needs and desires.

By tapping into the power of emotional triggers and social proof, you can create content that not only cuts through the clutter but also inspires organic sharing and amplification.

Reflections

The 2024 election year will undoubtedly bring new challenges and complexities to the world of digital advertising. But by staying informed, adaptable, and strategic in your approach, you can navigate this landscape successfully and even find new opportunities for growth and engagement.

As a media buyer or agnecy, your role in steering your brand through these uncharted waters will be critical. By starting your planning early, embracing alternative channels and tactics, and focusing on creating authentic, resonant content, you can not only survive but thrive in the face of election year disruptions.

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So while the road ahead may be uncertain, one thing is clear: the brands that approach this challenge with creativity, agility, and a steadfast commitment to their customers will be the ones that emerge stronger on the other side.


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Tinuiti Marketing Analytics Recognized by Forrester

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Tinuiti Marketing Analytics Recognized by Forrester

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By Tinuiti Team

Rapid Media Mix Modeling and Proprietary Tech Transform Brand Performance

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Tinuiti, the largest independent full-funnel performance marketing agency, has been included in a recent Forrester Research report titled, “The Marketing Analytics Landscape, Q2 2024.” This report comprehensively overviews marketing analytics markets, use cases, and capabilities. B2C marketing leaders can use this research by Principal Analyst Tina Moffett to understand the intersection of marketing analytics capabilities and use cases to determine the vendor or service provider best positioned for their analytics and insights needs. Moffett describes the top marketing analytics markets as advertising agencies, marketing dashboards and business intelligence tools, marketing measurement and optimization platforms and service providers, and media analytics tools.

As an advertising agency, we believe Tinuiti is uniquely positioned to manage advertising campaigns for brands including buying, targeting, and measurement. Our proprietary measurement technology, Bliss Point by Tinuiti, allows us to measure the optimal level of investment to maximize impact and efficiency. According to the Forrester report, “only 30% of B2C marketing decision-makers say their organization uses marketing or media mix modeling (MMM),” so having a partner that knows, embraces, and utilizes MMM is important. As Tina astutely explains, data-driven agencies have amplified their marketing analytics competencies with data science expertise; and proprietary tools; and tailored their marketing analytics techniques based on industry, business, and data challenges. 

Our Rapid Media Mix Modeling sets a new standard in the market with its exceptional speed, precision, and transparency. Our patented tech includes Rapid Media Mix Modeling, Always-on Incrementality, Brand Equity, Creative Insights, and Forecasting – it will get you to your Marketing Bliss Point in each channel, across your entire media mix, and your overall brand performance. 

As a marketing leader you may ask yourself: 

  • How much of our marketing budget should we allocate to driving store traffic versus e-commerce traffic?
  • How should we allocate our budget by channel to generate the most traffic and revenue possible?
  • How many customers did we acquire in a specific region with our media spend?
  • What is the impact of seasonality on our media mix?
  • How should we adjust our budget accordingly?
  • What is the optimal marketing channel mix to maximize brand awareness? 

These are just a few of the questions that Bliss Point by Tinuiti can help you answer.

Learn more about our customer-obsessed, product-enabled, and fully integrated approach and how we’ve helped fuel full-funnel outcomes for the world’s most digital-forward brands like Poppi & Toms.

The Landscape report is available online to Forrester customers or for purchase here

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Ecommerce evolution: Blurring the lines between B2B and B2C

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Ecommerce evolution: Blurring the lines between B2B and B2C

Understanding convergence 

B2B and B2C ecommerce are two distinct models of online selling. B2B ecommerce is between businesses, such as wholesalers, distributors, and manufacturers. B2C ecommerce refers to transactions between businesses like retailers and consumer brands, directly to individual shoppers. 

However, in recent years, the boundaries between these two models have started to fade. This is known as the convergence between B2B and B2C ecommerce and how they are becoming more similar and integrated. 

Source: White Paper: The evolution of the B2B Consumer Buyer (ClientPoint, Jan 2024)

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What’s driving this change? 

Ever increasing customer expectations  

Customers today expect the same level of convenience, speed, and personalization in their B2B transactions as they do in their B2C interactions. B2B buyers are increasingly influenced by their B2C experiences. They want research, compare, and purchase products online, seamlessly transitioning between devices and channels.  They also prefer to research and purchase online, using multiple devices and channels.

Forrester, 68% of buyers prefer to research on their own, online . Customers today expect the same level of convenience, speed, and personalization in their B2B transactions as they do in their B2C interactions. B2B buyers are increasingly influenced by their B2C experiences. They want research, compare, and purchase products online, seamlessly transitioning between devices and channels.  They also prefer to research and purchase online, using multiple devices and channels

Technology and omnichannel strategies

Technology enables B2B and B2C ecommerce platforms to offer more features and functionalities, such as mobile optimization, chatbots, AI, and augmented reality. Omnichannel strategies allow B2B and B2C ecommerce businesses to provide a seamless and consistent customer experience across different touchpoints, such as websites, social media, email, and physical stores. 

However, with every great leap forward comes its own set of challenges. The convergence of B2B and B2C markets means increased competition.  Businesses now not only have to compete with their traditional rivals, but also with new entrants and disruptors from different sectors. For example, Amazon Business, a B2B ecommerce platform, has become a major threat to many B2B ecommerce businesses, as it offers a wide range of products, low prices, and fast delivery

“Amazon Business has proven that B2B ecommerce can leverage popular B2C-like functionality” argues Joe Albrecht, CEO / Managing Partner, Xngage. . With features like Subscribe-and-Save (auto-replenishment), one-click buying, and curated assortments by job role or work location, they make it easy for B2B buyers to go to their website and never leave. Plus, with exceptional customer service and promotional incentives like Amazon Business Prime Days, they have created a reinforcing loyalty loop.

And yet, according to Barron’s, Amazon Business is only expected to capture 1.5% of the $5.7 Trillion addressable business market by 2025. If other B2B companies can truly become digital-first organizations, they can compete and win in this fragmented space, too.” 

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If other B2B companies can truly become digital-first organizations, they can also compete and win in this fragmented space

Joe Albrecht
CEO/Managing Partner, XNGAGE

Increasing complexity 

Another challenge is the increased complexity and cost of managing a converging ecommerce business. Businesses have to deal with different customer segments, requirements, and expectations, which may require different strategies, processes, and systems. For instance, B2B ecommerce businesses may have to handle more complex transactions, such as bulk orders, contract negotiations, and invoicing, while B2C ecommerce businesses may have to handle more customer service, returns, and loyalty programs. Moreover, B2B and B2C ecommerce businesses must invest in technology and infrastructure to support their convergence efforts, which may increase their operational and maintenance costs. 

How to win

Here are a few ways companies can get ahead of the game:

Adopt B2C-like features in B2B platforms

User-friendly design, easy navigation, product reviews, personalization, recommendations, and ratings can help B2B ecommerce businesses to attract and retain more customers, as well as to increase their conversion and retention rates.  

According to McKinsey, ecommerce businesses that offer B2C-like features like personalization can increase their revenues by 15% and reduce their costs by 20%. You can do this through personalization of your website with tools like Product Recommendations that help suggest related products to increase sales. 

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Focus on personalization and customer experience

B2B and B2C ecommerce businesses need to understand their customers’ needs, preferences, and behaviors, and tailor their offerings and interactions accordingly. Personalization and customer experience can help B2B and B2C ecommerce businesses to increase customer satisfaction, loyalty, and advocacy, as well as to improve their brand reputation and competitive advantage. According to a Salesforce report, 88% of customers say that the experience a company provides is as important as its products or services.

Related: Redefining personalization for B2B commerce

Market based on customer insights

Data and analytics can help B2B and B2C ecommerce businesses to gain insights into their customers, markets, competitors, and performance, and to optimize their strategies and operations accordingly. Data and analytics can also help B2B and B2C ecommerce businesses to identify new opportunities, trends, and innovations, and to anticipate and respond to customer needs and expectations. According to McKinsey, data-driven organizations are 23 times more likely to acquire customers, six times more likely to retain customers, and 19 times more likely to be profitable. 

What’s next? 

The convergence of B2B and B2C ecommerce is not a temporary phenomenon, but a long-term trend that will continue to shape the future of ecommerce. According to Statista, the global B2B ecommerce market is expected to reach $20.9 trillion by 2027, surpassing the B2C ecommerce market, which is expected to reach $10.5 trillion by 2027. Moreover, the report predicts that the convergence of B2B and B2C ecommerce will create new business models, such as B2B2C, B2A (business to anyone), and C2B (consumer to business). 

Therefore, B2B and B2C ecommerce businesses need to prepare for the converging ecommerce landscape and take advantage of the opportunities and challenges it presents. Here are some recommendations for B2B and B2C ecommerce businesses to navigate the converging landscape: 

  • Conduct a thorough analysis of your customers, competitors, and market, and identify the gaps and opportunities for convergence. 
  • Develop a clear vision and strategy for convergence, and align your goals, objectives, and metrics with it. 
  • Invest in technology and infrastructure that can support your convergence efforts, such as cloud, mobile, AI, and omnichannel platforms. 
  • Implement B2C-like features in your B2B platforms, and vice versa, to enhance your customer experience and satisfaction.
  • Personalize your offerings and interactions with your customers, and provide them with relevant and valuable content and solutions.
  • Leverage data and analytics to optimize your performance and decision making, and to innovate and differentiate your business.
  • Collaborate and partner with other B2B and B2C ecommerce businesses, as well as with other stakeholders, such as suppliers, distributors, and customers, to create value and synergy.
  • Monitor and evaluate your convergence efforts, and adapt and improve them as needed. 

By following these recommendations, B2B and B2C ecommerce businesses can bridge the gap between their models and create a more integrated and seamless ecommerce experience for their customers and themselves. 

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