6 Marketplace Platforms for Local Buyers

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small townLimited-time promotions are an effective way to generate immediate customer demand, but what happens once the hype is over and the deal is complete? To counteract their one-and-done reputations and give merchants a way to extend their promotions, a number of hyperlocal companies are developing local marketplace platforms with more opportunities for long-tail marketing.

Searchable marketplaces, where local merchants can post discounts, offers, and other promotions that run for an extended period of time, are a way for businesses to increase their exposure without cutting prices on their services to unsustainable levels. Merchants appear eager to try out the local marketplace model, with 84% of the merchants who work with Groupon now opting to run extended promotions through the company’s Deal Bank.

Here are six local marketplace platforms where merchants can post their goods and services online.

1. Scoutmob’s Shoppe: A curated marketplace for local artisans.
Shoppe is an online marketplace where local artisans (dubbed micro-retailers) can advertise and distribute their wares. Shoppers in 13 metropolitan areas can browse through handmade goods made by local designers and craftsmen. Scoutmob handpicks the artisans it showcases, and only promotes between five and ten products per week in each local area. Although Shoppe has only been around for a few months, the local marketplace already accounts for 30% to 40% of Scoutmob’s gross revenue. Scoutmob “keeps a cut” of any transactions processed through its platform.

2. Zaarly’s Storefronts: Create a storefront with professional assistance.
Launched in September 2012, Zaarly’s Storefronts platform gives sellers a way to create “curated brand pages” to connect with buyers in their local areas. Individual sellers in five major markets (San Francisco, Kansas City, New York City, Seattle, and Los Angeles) can promote their products to shoppers in their local communities. Zaarly provides its sellers with professional photographers and editorial assistance when putting together storefronts on its platform. In exchange for these services, Zaarly adds a 10% transaction fee to all advertised prices.

3. Groupon’s Deal Bank: Promote new products with open-ended deals.
Groupon’s database of standing deals is collectively known as the Deal Bank. In North America alone, the Deal Bank had almost 37,000 deals as of December 2012, making up “more than half” of Groupon’s local transactions. Customers can search through deals by category (like “pizza” or “nails”), as well as location. Merchants who utilize the Deal Bank platform can create and manage ongoing offers, and use Groupon’s tools for scheduling, processing payments, and rewarding repeat customers. Although Groupon is known for charging a 50% commission to merchants, the company has begun “taking a lower commission on deals to attract higher-quality merchants.”

4. eBay Lifestyle Deals: Offer reduced prices on local services.
Shoppers who visit eBay expecting to bid on vintage clothes and comic books now have something new to explore. Since late 2012, the company has been running a local services marketplace in selected cities. Listings posted to the Lifestyle Deals marketplace are searchable via eBay’s main search box. Shoppers also have the option to browse through deals by location or category. Merchants negotiate the specifics of their deals with Signpost (which has formed a partnership with eBay to curate local deals), offering things like special rates on auto maintenance packages, teeth whitening, and chiropractic exams. Unlike traditional daily deals, the offers posted on the Lifestyle Deals platform do not have limited redemption dates or contingencies.

5. Grabio: Sell to people who are shopping nearby.
Grabio is a mobile marketplace that uses a location-based API to help SMBs increase foot traffic at their retail stores. Consumers use the company’s mobile app to discover what businesses around them are selling, and they can sign up to receive real-time notifications when they’re in the vicinity of a retailer that’s selling something they’d like to buy. Merchants that integrate with Grabio can accept payments through the app, as well. Listing items for sale in the Grabio marketplace is free, however the platform charges merchants a 6% fee when they use its credit card payment system.

6. MyTime: Acquire new customers without relying on aggressive discounts.
MyTime is an online marketplace that doesn’t rely on discounts and deals to help small businesses acquire new clients. Consumers search for open appointment slots at businesses on MyTime’s local marketplace (selecting the location, type of service, preferred date, and the price they’re willing to pay), and MyTime pulls up a list of merchants that meet their criteria. Users can then make their bookings or reservations directly through the MyTime platform. Merchants can integrate MyTime into their own websites, and post their availability schedules for free. MyTime offers additional features, like dynamic pricing and promotional tools, to merchants who agree to give the company a 40% cut of each transaction.

Know of other local marketplaces for SMBs? Leave a description in the comments.

Stephanie Miles is an associate editor at Street Fight.

Stephanie Miles is a journalist who covers personal finance, technology, and real estate. As Street Fight’s senior editor, she is particularly interested in how local merchants and national brands are utilizing hyperlocal technology to reach consumers. She has written for FHM, the Daily News, Working World, Gawker, Cityfile, and Recessionwire.