Local marketing trends to watch: transportation

Several tech trends are converging that will offer some exciting new opportunities for local marketers. Over the next few weeks, we’ll be exploring the most promising tech trends heading our way. First up, we’ll examine the transportation sector. Here’s what marketers need to know:

Developments in transportation that will impact local marketing

Local marketing is about to see a multitude of new opportunities thanks to developments in transportation. Leading the way are ride services, autonomous driving, and virtual billboards.

Ride services

Uber has recognized the marketing potential of a captive audience and they intend to take advantage of it. By turning their app into a digital content marketplace, they’ll start bringing users entertainment, as well the ads of participating businesses.

One particularly interesting aspect of Uber’s app and content strategy is the opportunity to have local businesses pay for a customer’s ride to a store’s location.

Placeable’s Brian Smith recently covered the topic in his Search Engine Land column. According to him, the potential for marketers to lure customers to their locations is tremendous. However, the key to unlocking this new marketing potential lies in the development of autonomous cars.

Autonomous driving

It’s no secret that Uber and the other ride services eventually intend to cut out drivers and operate their own fleets of autonomous vehicles. Two things will happen:

1) You’ll begin to see the proliferation of local businesses paying for their customer’s fares. Most of the revenue from an Uber ride goes to the driver. Once the driver gets cut out of the equation, this drops the price for rides, making it much more affordable for local businesses to pick up the tab.

2) Uber’s content marketing platform will make the leap from the app to the rest of the car. Right now, Uber’s content platform must reside in the app because Uber doesn’t own the cars they operate. But once Uber begins operating its fleet of autonomous vehicles, this is no longer an issue. As such, expect to see screens on the back of Uber headrests and in the dashboard of cars.

To be clear, the local marketing implications of autonomous driving extends well beyond Uber to all autonomous vehicles. Without the need to manually operate a vehicle, your hands and eyes are free to do other things like browsing your phone or watching the digital screens in your car.

The local marketing potential for hands-free driving is huge simply because users already have local intent with their desired destination. Depending on the location a customer requests to be driven to, marketers will know precisely what type of ads might convince a user to deviate from their course.

Car manufacturers are also seeing the marketing advantage that will come with autonomous driving. As such, they are starting to turn your car into a smartphone on wheels. For example, GM is offering an unlimited data plan for its car owners. This will allow users the opportunity to access the internet in transit, as well as allow marketers to access those users.

But changes to local marketing aren’t just coming from inside the vehicle. New opportunities will arise outside the car as well.

Transportation and Virtual billboards

Get ready to see a resurgence of billboards, though not the typical sense. If you no longer need to have your eyes on the road, you are free to look around. This will open up the possibility of virtual billboards.

How will they work?

Most likely through beacons and your smartphone using augmented reality.

Beacons have been slow to take off, but they may just find their niche, and launch a wider adoption thanks to self-driving cars and in-car wireless hotspots.

It’s not hard to imagine traveling down the road in an Uber and a beacon triggers a local advertising on your phone or on the dashboard of your car. If you then click on the ad, you will be whisked away to that location—with a discount, of course.


Having your ride paid for by businesses on Uber is already rolling out. Expect its use to increase over the coming year. However, it won’t truly take off until Uber can cut the driver out of the equation with autonomous vehicles.

As for autonomous driving, Tesla hopes to achieve full driving autonomy before the end of the year. However, I’d expect 2018 to be the year of the self-driving car.

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