Getting To The Root Of On Demand Local

During a panel at the BIA/Kelsey Conference, industry insiders discuss how local on demand services are disrupting traditional business models.

The rapid growth of local on demand services, often referred to as the “Uber-ification” of various business sectors, was a main topic of discussion at yesterday’s BIA/Kelsey Leading In Local conference panel titled “The On Demand Local Economy.” Moderated by Michael Boland, chief analyst/VP, Content, BIA/Kelsey, the panel featured several players in the space including Chris Spanos, CEO of; Brendan Benzig, Co-founder and CEO of My Neighbor; Leigh McMillan, VP, Marketing, Avvo; Joel Toledano, Strategic Partnerships, Curbside.

Spanos, whose company offers roadside assistance by leveraging smartphone and GPS technology to match users to the nearest available servicer able to manage their vehicle and specific problem, kicked off the panel with a one-on-one talk with Boland. Spanos began by defining the term “On Demand Local” as he understands it.

Deepening Dimensions

“The way we look at it is that On Demand means [for the consumer], ‘I have a need and I want it fulfilled now or relatively soon, and I’m going to search [for that fulfillment] either through an app or another search channel, and what will be surfaced to me is available and served in a frictionless way, with complete transparency and visibility,” Spanos stated. He also noted the evolution of how humans search for services, speaking to a certain “dimensionalization” of digital search.

“Search in last 10 years has been a flat, two-dimensional experience, but On Demand apps are surfacing and exposing more dimensions,” Spanos said, pointing out the deeper conversation a consumer may have with his/herself while considering giving over their business. “Where [is the business]? Where am I? Can we connect directly with as little friction as possible?” said Spanos, assuming the voice of today’s digitally-tuned-in consumer.

“What we believe deeply is that how you intercact through these apps is the future of search. Google and Bing will need to dimensionalize to stay different,” Spanos said, adding that $3.4 billion has been invested in On Demand businesses in just the last few months — a fact that solicited little gasps of surprise from many members of the audience, if not full on jaw drops.

A slide shown during the presentation of what is now only a portion of On Demand businesses.

Local Players

Once Benzig, Toledano, and McMillan entered the discussion, the conversation narrowed in on what kind of work their respective companies provide in the On Demand space.

MyNeighbor is a local resource for various needs, connecting consumers to members of their community who are capable of providing whatever it is the consumer wants. If someone needs a swim instructor, for instance, MyNeighbor will serve as the search engine and the connective force between the consumer and the provider. Curbside is a mobile shopping app that helps consumers find, buy, and pickup products at nearby stores. It conducts searches in real time, looking at local inventory across a number of retailers and using location-based technologies to alert stores when a customer is arriving for a pickup. The goal of both these companies is, in a sense, to save time and maybe even some money. This concept of ‘saving’ — and doing so conveniently — is at the core of On Demand Local and a key trait to just about every company in the space.

Avvo functions according to this philosophy of saving and speediness as well, but it’s a rather unique company, as it provides legal services. Essentially, a consumer in need of legal consultation can connect with a lawyer using Avvo. They can ask questions for free and then, if they choose to pursue legal help, can connect with the type of lawyer they need and view all the costs upfront, a feature that brings transparency to a field that is famously distrusted.

Transparency and Access

“There’s an untapped market there,” Avvo’s McMillan said. “Consumers don’t always want to get legal services. So [Avvo is focused on] addressing fear and humanity. We really need to bring humanity to what we provide.”

Humanity and transparency are also key traits of the Local On Demand industry. As all the panelists noted, millennials are unique from all generations prior and so are their needs and expectations.

“[Millennials] are apprehensive of ownership,” Benzig asserted. “They’re living the hangover of the great recession. Their parents and grandparents may have gone through the housing crises. I grew up in the 70s and 80s where it was the “American Hustle” and “The Wolf Of Wall Street.” It was all about getting more. But now we’re in a post-consumerist mode where we know that things won’t make you happy. Access is what you need.”