Closely Blog

Rethinking Small Business Engagement

One of the truisms in local media is that consumers are spending more and more of their search, shopping and social activity via their smartphone. As these tools are geo-aware by default, the opportunity to connect these consumers to local businesses finally gets very tangible and lucrative.

Hundreds of millions of consumers spend their time on utility apps in mobile maps, localized search and shopping tools, on specialized social local apps, while waves of new local shopping apps call for their attention: witness Groupon Now, ScoutMob, Yipit, SCVNGR. Mobile wallets are about to increase the noise even further – essentially creating another new localized marketing channel disguised as a convenient payment tool.

But where is the merchant amid all this noise and excitement?

Business Behavior: Leaning forward with a furrowed brow
For the most part, merchants are sitting on the side of the pool, perhaps with one toe in the water, but mostly they are dazed and confused by the pace of change and plethora of choices. The concept appeals, but they are confused about how best to invite this live mobile consumer to visit or transact.

What they are doing is intensely watching the activity, as their competitors and neighbors do Daily Deals, as they adopt social marketing and as they begin to test new location-based specials.

At Closely, we’ve spent over a year working with and watching small businesses iterate their way through first generation deals, loyalty products and mobile promotion. One thing really stood out.

Searching for the Lost Feeling of Control

The consistent emotion that is visible with small business owners is feeling out of control – a lot of this is a function of the limited time they have to learn and keep up, and the often visceral fear that their competitors may be getting a leg up on them.

We took this reality to the product drawing board, and designed a new approach to drive small business engagement with Closely.

Soon, you’ll see us launch the first version of a new merchant mobile application.  The thinking behind how to engage with small business was captured in our recent guest editorial at Street Fight Magazine – essentially is boils down to this…

Deliver a live personalized stream about what is happening in the market and neighborhood of a business, all the time, at their fingertips – create an initial feeling of relief, followed by a growing desire to engage and control their performance.

Reward the user first, and then drive the opportunity for product engagement.

Business owner attention center on everyday interactions in their marketplace – about their customers, competitors and neighborhood activity patterns.  By informing the owner of the live mobile marketplace surrounding them, we start to knock down the barriers to participation.

Businesses need to be able to feel the vibe and get familiar with the everyday flow of promotions and incentives pulling consumers into action. Delivering this as a simple, valuable everyday mobile tool creates instant and lasting value.  From there, we’ll build product involvement.

Stay tuned, it’s going to be a fun new product direction for Closely!

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2 Responses

  1. Anita

    Any local business that pings my smart phone with any type of advertising or promotion -of ANY kind- will get a nasty phone call from me. You are on smoking crack if you think your BS vision of “SoLoMo” connectivity to all our phones is the future! And online payments continue to have serious security and fraud issues. SMB merchants are not stupid; they know WE -their customers- do NOT want our phones jammed with their BS advertising trash! Can you feel that vibe?!

  2. perryevans

    Hey, thanks for taking the time to respond – however, I think you misunderstood our product and position. We are not creating tools for businesses to push to phones, but to post into the places where mobile consumers GO LOOKING for promotions. I actually agree with you wholeheartedly, that consumers will not tolerate auto-publishing of uninvited promotion or messaging.

    Perch is a merchant tool for them to browse what promotions that are competing with and or published by their neighbors on check-in sites like Foursquare, and on Facebook, Twitter, etc. It’s a way for the business owner/manager to better understand these new channels. Period.

    Hope the clarification helps.