Local Search Predictions (Part 1): Q&A with Jason Uechi of YP℠ Mobile Labs

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We recently sat down with Jason Uechi, Director of Engineering at YP Mobile Labs to talk about what trends he sees facing the local search industry – now and well into the future. We loved the conversation so much that we decided to turn it into a two-part series that looks more closely at both the undercurrents and influencers shaping local search. Here, in Part One, we decided to start by taking a step back and examine the broader industry trends at the very heart of this fast-paced digital (r)evolution.

So Jason, a somewhat broad question to get us started: How do you predict local search will change between now and 2020? 

How will local search change in the next four years? That is a fairly broad question. Predictions like this are tough, but one thing is certain: change is guaranteed. I think, though, before we hone in on local search itself, we need to think about the broader technological trends are poised to exert their influence over the industry as a whole, most notably:

  • Cheaper storage, more memory, and faster processors combined have ushered us into the age of “big data.” In the future, all of this information we have at our fingertips related to user generated content, sentiment analysis, location data, and consumer buying patterns will combine into more efficient, intelligent, and insightful systems that can tailor results and recommendations in much more dynamic and personalized ways. When artificial intelligence beings to power local search in this way, it will feel like human intuition – almost as though you’re getting feedback from your best friend.
  • Constant connectivity, resulting from faster networks, makes me believe that real-time data and video will begin to play more of a major role in our connected lives, even at the local level. I have this idea in my head that life as we know it will look more like the “Truman Show,” where we’re all essentially be the stars of our own reality shows. One of the perks associated with this would be the ability to “see” whatever local businesses we’re searching for at any given moment so that we can answer questions like, “how many people are there now,” “is there any parking,” or “is someone at my favorite table” instantly, in real-time.  As a result, local consumers will start to learn how to be “stream savvy,” in addition to generally being street smart about how they go about making local decisions.
Next question: What’s happening – or about to happen – with location analytics now that will change the industry by 2020? 

The road ahead for location analytics vis-à-vis the use of consumer location data is fundamentally finding itself at the crossroads of personal privacy and corporate commercialization. And although I’m speaking in binaries here, this split doesn’t necessarily need to be a zero-sum game. For location data to increase its overall reach, relevance, and importance – both for consumers and marketers – it must create immediate value and be core to the products and services that consumers (and society) rely on daily. So what does this mean? Here are a couple ways I see this coming together:

  • Location analytics will disappear from the surface of products entirely and, instead, become the core of a much larger commercial revolution. What happens in a world full of driverless cars? What happens when all local brick and mortar businesses not only become on-demand services, but also niche bespoke sellers with truly global reach?  What happens when your media spend starts to generate more real-time market and business intelligence than ever had before. 
  • Location data – including all data used for marketing services – will no longer be governed by ad-hoc applications of so-called industry “best practices” and, instead, move toward an underlying architecture focused on privacy and anonymity first. In this scenario, data leakage won’t entirely cease to exist, but will be less and less of a concern as large industry forces like Apple and Google continue to bake more substantial protections into their own operating systems. That being said, it will be up to everyone involved to ensure that a perceived secure architecture like this doesn’t merely serve as a window dressing for a walled garden and product lock-in.

To be continued next week in Part 2 of our Q&A with Jason…

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