Vizalytics Helps ‘Mind Your Business’
The tech company is offering local businesses a “moment-by-moment, real-time” view of what’s happening on the streets around them with its Mind My Business mobile platform.
For many small businesses on Main Street, location isn’t just something that matters – it’s what matters most. Construction in front of the store means less foot traffic and therefore fewer sales. A cold, rainy day in the neighborhood means more customers buying soup at the deli, so it’s important to be stocked up. A local city fine can be prohibitively expensive.
This is the reality for local businesses, and it’s what drove Aileen Gemma Smith, CEO of Vizalytics Technology, to launch a mobile platform dubbed Mind My Business in June 2014. The tool is designed to serve up targeted information to shopkeepers, providing them with updates about exactly what’s going on in their area, from the city level down to their very street. Even changes in city codes and upcoming roadwork can be gleaned from the platform’s dashboard. As Smith says, it’s the job of Mind My Business to inform owners about what could affect their business on the hyperlocal level.
“We’re in the business of helping people get information they haven’t had before,” Smith says. “In the simplest words, it’s the ability to say ‘here’s what the neighborhood around you is like’ at every moment.”
Inspired By Hurricane Sandy
Smith was inspired to build a tool for local businesses back in 2012. She grew up on Staten Island and witnessed first-hand the devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy, and how it harmed local businesses.
As shops began to rebuild and reopen following the storm, “I could see that the problem wasn’t just ‘We had six feet of water in the basement,’ but [a lack] of information. A lot of folks were saying things like ‘How did you know when there would be a supply truck here?’” Smith says. “And I would respond, ‘A lot of this information is on social media — and why is no one helping you with this?’”
From there, the idea to aggregate that local information and serve it up to store owners came fully into being. And Smith believed that this need for better knowledge about a business’s neighborhood would extend far beyond a small community recovering from a storm.
Preparation Is Priceless
At the moment, access to Mind My Business as launched in New York in June runs shopkeepers $40 a month, a figure culled from Smith’s personal conversations with potential users. She’s aware that her target users often have small budgets, but sees an evolution in the not-too-distant future in which the company will offer customers different access options for different price points.
“We want to be as ubiquitous as GPS is in your car, or the weather app you check before leaving your house this morning,” Smith says. “In order to achieve that, we want to [create] a base version of MMB that is free. No matter who you are and what business you are, this aspect of it is free, and then there’s another kind of paid version.”
The plan is that different levels of service and specialization could be made available for a bigger business willing to pay more.
However, one criticism of Mind My Business is that it doesn’t link to any measurable return on investment — how will business owners find utility in what they’re paying for?
Smith responds that it’s all about getting at the metrics that your particular customer values; for the local business owners she’s trying to reach, peace of mind itself can be a form of ROI.
“The average small deli owner can’t tell you exactly how many sandwiches he sold on a Friday, and, numerically, he doesn’t really care,” she says. “He wants to know [the big picture], like if traffic will be slower so he doesn’t buy food that will go to waste or staff the shop more than necessary. It’s hard to put a dollar amount on [boosting] efficiency in that way, but it’s what our customers want.”
In Smith’s mind, feeling prepared for whatever happens may not be statistically measurable, but to many of her local users, it feels priceless.
First NYC, Tomorrow… SF?
And if shopkeepers in New York feel that way, Smith expects that they do other places as well. “We’re primed to launch in Chicago before the end of 2014,” she says.
The company is also collecting data for a San Francisco launch and spreading the word on social media. Smith encourages local businesses outside of these major cities to reach out, as she hopes to hear their needs so as to develop the tool for them as well.
“We’re lucky to [already] have a community of fierce and loyal early adopters, and we’re working on growing from there,” Smith says.