Mobile is the Future of Local Tech

Mobile now accounts for 50% of all time spent online, and more than one-third of people use mobile exclusively for purchase research. As Internet use continues to shift toward mobile, it is essential that we deliver the right content to the right consumer at the right time.

Last week, I was asked to speak on the panel “Using Mobile to Connect Content and Commerce” at the Street Fight Summit West Conference in San Francisco. I was joined by Yellow Pages CMO Allison Checci, Gilt City President Steve Schneider, and moderator Bill Dinan from Telmetrics. A major theme of our discussion was the ever-changing path to purchase, and the opportunity to rethink how we interact with mobile-first consumers.

Panel-SFSW14Retailers historically had ways to shape demand and get your attention, so when you made that trip to go shopping you decided to go to Kohl’s instead of Macy’s. Now, with mobile we have a chance to get in front of you directly, so when you are in fact going to Macy’s, we can tell you to go to Kohl’s. With our Find&Save geo-focused mobile apps, we are able to deliver highly relevant content to users based on their physical locations.

We’ve found that the location of where someone’s at and where he or she has been is incredibly valuable intent. If you’re walking into a home depot on Saturday morning, we have a pretty good idea what your plans are for the weekend, and that allows us to push the right content in front of you at the right time. As Allison Checchi said, “Knowing that an individual has certain behavioral patterns and layering [those patterns] on top of geo-location data is key.”

If you are walking into a Home Depot, we have the ability to push an ad to save $10 at Lowe’s in the next four hours. That’s pretty effective in terms of getting you to consider Lowe’s and cross their threshold, instead of spending your whole wallet at Home Depot. You couldn’t have done that before mobile, because you didn’t know where that person was and didn’t have access to them outside the home.

BenSmith-SFSW14One of the event sponsors was Reply, Inc., the company that I sold MerchantCircle to in 2011. Payam Zamani, CEO of Reply! mentioned the ownership of MerchantCircle, which has 1.7MM small merchants on their platform. He spoke about the company’s position in local and how MerchantCircle is a big part of their local marketing solution. He said, “We are focused on giving complete control to the local advertiser, especially on mobile devices.”

Mobile is changing the way we discover, find and buy goods/services online. During my time at MerchantCircle, our main focus was building the largest network of SMB’s on the web. It wasn’t until 2010, about a year before selling the company to Reply! that our attention began to shift toward developing a mobile app.

Apps are making mobile devices more useful for everyday human needs, helping us consume and digest information easier. It is crucial to design simple apps; they should only perform one specific point function. Consumers prefer simplicity; they expect the app to push a button and do something. They don’t expect it to do everything; they expect it to do one thing. A big difference in how you approach the app world is building a portfolio of apps that solve specific problems vs. the all-encompassing app.

This year’s Street Fight Summit West Conference was packed with insights into the growing system of hyperlocal media. As time goes on we will see new location technologies bring local data to the next level. As we continue to work on bringing consumers and retailers together, I am already looking forward to attending Street Fight Summit West 2015 and sharing our latest learnings.

About Ben T. Smith, IV

Founder of, investor in and advisor to technology and media companies
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