What will the digital landscape look like for SMBs in five years time?

At the rapid rate technology is advancing, do you ever wonder what the digital landscape will look like five years down the line when it comes to technology and its effects on small businesses?

At the recent BIA Kelsey event in New Orleans, our North American CEO Eric Owen, participated on a Thought Leaders & Decision Makers panel debating whether or not certain statements will be true in five years time. The panel also included Ben Saren, Local Entrepreneur, Annette Tonti, SVP Saas Platforms, The Search Agency and Michael Boland, Chief Analyst, BIA/Kelsey.

In case you don’t have thirty minutes to watch the whole video, we’ve gathered some of the more interesting takeaways.


We won’t be carrying wallets, credit cards or cash for local transactions.

The entire panel responds with an overwhelming ‘no’, not in five years. Ben Saren says maybe in 10 years but this trend will be moving at a glacial pace while Eric Owen agrees that five years is a definite ‘no’ for SMBs, he sees the adoption moving quicker for larger retailers. Annette Tonti challenges the entire value proposition of mobile payments saying, "If it [isn’t] a problem, what are we trying to solve?" Michael Boland adds to Annette’s comments and says that in the value proposition there is “not enough difference to get over what is otherwise an entrenched habit and one where comfort levels and security is so high.”

Google will have been supplanted as the go-to place for local search

No one sees the search giant as being totally supplanted as the go-to place for local search, but most see openings for other players to make some disruptions. Ben says that maybe it’s worth thinking of in terms of discovery search vs recovery search. In his opinion, Google will continue to be dominant in recovery search but maybe less so in discovery search. Eric adds that if “efforts like Support Local – where personal reference and credibility from somebody you know, within your network becomes more easily shared on a request basis, I think [it ]will absolutely make some inroads in terms of Google. Google is a largely faceless source of reference. I’d much rather hear from you where to go dinner in Chicago, than Google.”

80% of SMBs will self-provision most of their advertising spend

While some of the panelists were open to the idea, Eric says “No, in fact you see all kinds of evidence to the contrary. SMBs are notoriously unwilling to accept complexity." Annette keeps it short and sweet saying, “not a chance.”

Social-mobile advertising will be the largest media spending component for SMBs

On this, panelists are more open to considering this as a possibility. Ben says it’s inevitable “especially as attention span is so much more focused on mobile.” But he also ads that “in five years the ad products will be so different than what we’re seeing right now.” Michael thinks this will be category dependent saying that, “for socially oriented topics, like Arts and entertainment, sure. I am not sure if home services have the direct fit for social media. That might be incorrect but I think we’ll see different levels of adoption that are vertical specific.”

Face to face media sales will be reserved for those spending $1m a year or more

Most panelists agree that it “may change or maybe become more efficient somehow” as Ben mentions, but it will never go away. Eric explains, “So here’s what I think is one of the biggest competitive intersections in the marketplace.  So here you have big channel, who says I’m going to relegate you to telesales environment because of the spend you have with us. It opens the door wide open for the thousands of small mom & pops (agencies) who are willing to do some form of digital advertising for them and with that personalized contact, those personal relationships are formed and extremely difficult to replace.”

Jillian Als

Global Marketing Manager

Mono Solutions