The chalkboard of the 21st century: say hello to hyper-local commerce

| September 22, 2015

Got a deal to offer? Need to move stock fast? Forget the chalkboard out the front – target your potential customers on their phone. You can do it quickly and see results almost instantly.

Hospitality and retail (bricks-and-mortar) small and medium-sized businesses in Australia have had it tough for a while. Most things can be bought online (and for less), home entertainment is on-demand, frugality is fashionable and the Australian lifestyle is swinging towards hanging in rather than going out. So, if you own a bricks-and-mortar retail store, café, restaurant or bar, this isn’t good news.

There will always be factors outside of a business’ control that can affect their success, but many owners fail to take control of the factors they can influence. This isn’t their fault, of course, as oftentimes they’re too busy working in the actual business to concentrate on growing their business, and so the vicious cycle perpetuates.

With the dot-com revolution, how we went about business changed. The social media revolution quickly altered how we communicated with the world and the smartphone revolution made these changes ubiquitous and an integral part of our lives.

Now, a new revolution is about to start and the benefits for street-front businesses are immense. It’s called “hyper-local commerce” and it’s coming to your neighbourhood. This new form of e-commerce is revolutionary, and it’s made possible thanks to the blurring of online and offline that has come from our love of smartphones.

It’s a new way to engage your community, build relationships and generate repeat business from people in your neighbourhood.

Who are those that stand to benefit the most? Hospitality and retail SMBs, because they have traditionally struggled using technology as effectively as their larger competitors. The bigger players often have the edge thanks to dedicated strategy and marketing teams at HQ. Hyper-local will help level the playing field.

Imagine being able to boost your foot traffic during your quiet times, clear perishable stock at the end of the day or adjust pricing based on the weather. Imagine seeing what’s trending in your neighbourhood and adjusting your offerings on-the-spot. Now imagine the ability to do this straight from your phone in near real-time – that’s the power of hyper-local.

That’s what our app Loocl does.

Loocl commenced its pilot in Sydney’s eastern suburbs earlier this year with the aim of empowering SMBs to engage with their neighbourhood. It’s a hyper-local platform that works by letting businesses offer instant deals straight from their phone that last as short as an hour or as long as the day. Deals take about a minute to post and Loocl users close by see upcoming deals the moment they’re posted.

Whilst the pilot has been incredibly successful, the most heartening part of our journey so far has been seeing the resourcefulness and creativity of business owners when given the right tools.

Mark (name changed), the manager of a café in Randwick was one of our first businesses. Mark started offering coffee at half-price, every morning, between 7am and 11am. I was initially taken aback by what seemed like a counter-productive measure of offering half-price coffee during peak-times.

A few weeks in I caught up with him to see how things were going, and he was delighted by the impact it had had on his business. Although he was making little margin on his “Loocled” coffee, he wasn’t losing out at all. Customers took the money they saved, spent it on a treat (apparently their cookies were a hit) and ended up spending more anyway.

He also discovered a whole new set of local customers who would normally jump on the bus into the CBD and get their coffee in town.  Some people that came for the coffee ended up staying for breakfast or brunch and because the deal finished at 11am, there was residual patronage as lunchtime approached making the café look busy and popular.

As the weeks rolled by, he started building relationships with these customers who, because they were local, would come back due to the great service they had. I recall one conversation with him about this effect: he was happy because his café “looked busy and popular.”

I reminded him that it was.

Janet (again, not her real name) had taken over the management of a restaurant which was known for being pricey and with little variety on the menu. She was trying to shake off its old image with a name change and new menu but with limited impact. She started offering a sharing platter on Loocl for two people to enjoy. The platter was 40% off the regular price had they bought the dishes separately, and they included well-known favourites alongside new ones she wanted people to try.

It did the trick: the 40% discount (she still had sustainable margin at the new price) brought people in who tried new dishes, bought alcohol (at full price) and kept coming back, and back and back. Repeat business picked up significantly, and even with the reputation she’s built up since re-opening the restaurant, still offers something on Loocl every day.

The beauty of hyper-local is that it’s geared to SMBs where the authority to make decisions on pricing falls firmly on the owner or manager at the location, not someone back at HQ.

What’s become evident is just how effective hyper-local can be for SMBs because it’s the chalkboard of the 21st century.

As with many aspects of business, you get out of it what you put in. Those that embrace it will be rewarded slowly but surely and those that don’t will wonder why next door is bustling and theirs is not.



  1. Roulla Yiacoumi

    Roulla Yiacoumi

    February 1, 2016 at 12:53 am

    Thank you for your comment,
    Thank you for your comment, Helen. It’s great being able to recommend a service you really love using!

  2. Avatar

    Helen Moriarty

    January 14, 2016 at 1:22 am

    I’ve used Loocl multiple
    I’ve used Loocl multiple times being a city local, and I love it. What a fantastic concept. I regularly see members of the team around in the shirts and after having done some research, I’m genuinely impressed by their ethos of sustainability. I will continue to recommend Loocl and I think they’re going to be the next big thing in the Australian tech market.