CEO Blog: Helping Local Businesses Compete in the Online Marketplace

How does a local business navigate the online world of today?

If a merchant was to search online or look in a local newspaper today for how to grow or expand their business the options would likely be many, but certainly difficult to figure out what is quality and what is just ‘noise.’ In fact, difficult may be an understatement, one might even go with overwhelming, daunting…borderline irritating.

While Washington continues to squabble over how to source more revenue to address the U.S. Government’s expanding deficit, local businesses face their own quagmire of how to remain relevant in an ever increasingly competitive marketplace.

To add to these current challenges, local businesses must face the new reality in which their competition is no longer defined as the store down the block selling a similar product or  offering a similar service, because the Web and the ability to search locally has spawned a preponderance of new competitors, who don’t even have a front door or physical address. A recent New York Times article gave the example of Ballard Lock & Key, which provides locksmith services in Seattle. Ballard’s key differentiator? It really exists. As explained in the article, there are “nearly 3,000 locksmiths in Seattle, though with relatively rare exceptions these operations aren’t in Seattle at all.” Many are phone banks sitting behind lead generation websites, and through search engine optimization, they make their way to the top of Google search results, marketing their services to the well-intentioned consumer.

With that in mind, how does a local business compete knowing very well that consumers are simply not willing to sacrifice quality, service or timeliness? At, we’re trying to do our part to address this – when a business joins our network, they are not only gaining a new way to receive orders from their current customers, but they are also expanding their customer base, thus increasing their order flow. Paying only for this incremental business truly helps merchants expand their business with no risk of increasing operational costs. To gain access to’s user base in their local market, businesses must go through an application process before being approved for listing on, so consumers can feel confident they are ordering from a reliable local business.

In such uncertain times, there is one thing I think we can all agree remains constant – people still spend the vast majority of their disposable income on stuff that can’t be shipped in boxes. As mentioned in a recent Vanity Fair article, Americans annually spend, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce, more than $300 billion on eating out, $380 billion on recreational activities, and another $100 billion on personal care services.  And to get a sense of just how big we are talking here, local commerce is estimated to be $1 trillion market in the U.S., and possibly $14 trillion globally.

Commerce between consumers and local merchants is here to stay, but the channels and technologies through which consumers engage with local merchants are evolving literally as I type this entry. Online, mobile, social as well as other methods of interaction that may just be emerging today must be considered as part of any local merchants’ offering. Presence in these channels will become increasingly important for local business owners as consumers continue to move online and utilize mobile technology when they are on-the-go, as I discussed last week on NBC New York Nightly News.

At, our relationships with you, whether you are a local business owner or a consumer, are most important. We value these relationships and are expanding smartly, rapidly and strategically in local communities around the country to connect with more users and merchants daily. We feel that by enabling people to order from neighborhood restaurants and stores from their homes, offices, or mobile devices, is providing a meaningful way to support local businesses, and ensure they are successful well beyond the ‘noise.’



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