Blurring Lines: The New Pillars of Local Commerce

I don’t know about you, but I’m not sure my glasses are working anymore. Every morning, I find myself cleaning my glasses as I skim the huge number of news bites about local commerce and media. The nicely drawn lines that used to separate awareness media from directive media aren’t so crisp anymore. The boundaries between old school Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and social marketing are just as blurry.

Maybe it’s not my glasses. In fact, all those straight lines with hard edges are quickly disappearing. Technology is making everything that was simple much more confusing. Luckily, for all the analysts at BIA/Kelsey, we have the privilege of spending our entire work days bringing sense and clarity to this rapidly changing local commerce space.

For instance, a couple of years ago I went out and suggested the notion of the three Ps — “Presence,” “Performance” and “Permanence.” I spoke of these three buckets at the YPA (now LSA) annual convention in San Diego in 2009.

We’ve now evolved this construct to “Media,” “Commerce” and “Engagement” — the three pillars of local commerce. Media is what you’d expect — advertising and promotional messages necessary to drive both awareness and action. Commerce is the conversion of those messages into customers, clients and patients (if you are a medically oriented SMB). And Engagement is the process of retaining and engaging those customers as they move from one-time customers to long-time fans.

These buckets of activity are becoming more and more solved by cloud-based solutions — nearly anyone and everyone figures he or she can get a piece of the action. Consequently, it is not surprising to watch transactional companies such as American Express nibble around the edges of advertising and marketing solutions. Nor will we be surprised when companies such as AT&T Interactive begin to solve the riddle of social media, marketing and engagement by offering easy-to-use solutions for the millions of U.S. merchants struggling to make sense of — and money in — the new marketplace.

Which brings me to the “rimshot” of the day. BlackBerry maker Research in Motion, the longtime mobile business phone leader, suffered a 20 percent decline in its market valuation Friday. In just three years, the company has plummeted from a lofty $150 a share and a $90B market valuation to a skimpy $30 a share and a $18B market valuation. It makes one think — as one of RIM’s largest investors has suggested — that RIM cannot adopt and adapt fast enough to keep pace with the relentlessly aggressive product initiatives driving consumers to the iPhone and to Android devices. At this point, it appears that RIM missed the boat, like Palm did, when it tried to milk its way to success while Apple and Google chose to break the existing model.

As companies in the local commerce space ponder their strategic direction in the coming months and years, the fate of their company and their competitors will ride heavily on the ability to transform — not just evolve and nibble on the edges. It likely won’t be enough to dabble in adjacent markets or products or service. It won’t be enough to tinker with the business model. It won’t be enough to hope that the marketplace stands still just long enough to get out and with a hefty retirement in place. Indeed, technology is altering the competitive landscape and the dimensions of the marketplace like never before.

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