Of all the changes mobile has wrought, on-demand arguably has made the biggest splash. The emergence of companies offering products and services immediately, with only a tap or two of a phone or tablet screen, is pushing incumbents to change their business models to stay on top of their industries. Three of these young-gun threats — Button, a platform that connects apps via deep linking; Urgent.ly, which offers roadside assistance; and Pager, a healthcare services provider — made an appearance at the Street Fight Summit, speaking on a panel about on-demand in local commerce.
Button CEO Mike Jaconi sees on-demand as “the natural in-road” to mobile commerce. “There is now a digital mesh laid over our cities that enables consumers to get what they want, when they want it,” he said. This infrastructure is allowing software-centric companies that have long flourished within the internet’s confines to become presences in the physical world. For Button, this translates to context. “Relevant touchpoints into services adds value, and we’re seeing a lot of big companies take steps in that direction as well,” Jaconi said.
Urgent.ly co-founder Ric Fleisher built his app around giving users as much transparency as possible. By letting them know they can trust the technology to work for them in times of need, Urgent.ly is “changing culture,” Fleisher said — key to boosting the on-demand economy in these still-early days.
Pager similarly provides services during challenging circumstances. Another commonality between the two, according to Toby Hervey, Pager’s VP of expansion, is affordability. Urgent.ly aims to disrupt AAA and drive down high auto insurance costs, while “a solution like Pager is an attractive option” in a field even more notorious for its high expenses, Hervey said.
Fleisher pointed out that on-demand isn’t just about location — it’s about available inventory. “You need to be able to expose inventory that matches the criteria of the consumer,” he said. “You have to layer on that visibility.” This is how smaller, local companies can leverage something that’s been dominated by companies like Uber and Instacart. If you have inventory (especially “perishable inventory,” Fleisher said), on-demand can be the best way to get it to consumers.
In general, adoption of on-demand is a tricky thing for SMBs to consider because it’s not clear whether and how it applies to every vertical. (Some, like Urgent.ly co-founder Chris Spanos, emphatically say it does.) But one thing is certain: On-demand is beyond the point of being a trend; it is commerce in 2015. In fact, on-demand has become so pervasive that it’s hard to imagine even local businesses ignoring its influence for long. As Button’s Jaconi said, in time, companies are likely to adopt on-demand “through osmosis.”