Home Startups and the Lure of the (Hyper)Local

Startups and the Lure of the (Hyper)Local

For a long time, technology has been touted as a force that can help us connect globally. But the urge to stay connected locally remains. And the same technological innovations that have facilitated global commerce and communication now seem to be turned towards helping us (re)connect to our neighborhoods, communities and local businesses. As buzz around location-based networks and services grows, “the local” is poised to be a place that’s increasingly the emphasis for innovation and entrepreneurship.

People want to know what’s going on locally. People want to shop locally. People want to network locally. And hyperlocal services make it easier to engage in and market to a local community. Technology need no longer be feared by local businesses as something that would drive their customers elsewhere – namely online.

Although location-based social networks such as Foursquare and Gowalla have received significant attention as part of this trend, they are far from the only services. Hyperlocal search and news sites are two other services that have seen recent growth.

Last week, Milo.com, a website that enables shoppers to research products online but then make their purchases locally, added products and real-time inventories for over 100 independent, mom-and-pop stores across the country. While Milo.com has served the “big box” stores for some time, this move to incorporate smaller retail outlets marks another way in which the local is starting to take advantage of online opportunities.

“Smaller stores that once viewed technology as a threat, now see the benefit it has for reaching potential shoppers and attracting new customers into their actual brick and mortar locations,” says Jack Abraham, Milo.com founder and CEO. Abraham says that Milo.com helps local businesses address the classic problem of how to get new customers in the door, but offers the best of both worlds – that is both an online component for reading reviews and the assurance that if they drive to their local store, they’ll find the item in-stock, ready to “touch, feel, and buy.”

The hyperlocal can offer both geographic and content granularity – the ability to focus on a very specific location and subject matter that might otherwise be too small to be served. By merging the local and the online, businesses can respond quickly to meet the needs of their customers.

Startups have long used local communities as a testing ground for both marketing and business models before opting to expand. The increasing interest in the hyperlocal might make it more than just a launching point.

What do you think of the potential for expansion of more hyperlocal startups?

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