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Marketing app makers say flexibility is key to success

From left, Peter Daly, Vito Pagano and Shawn

From left, Peter Daly, Vito Pagano and Shawn Smith of GettinLocal with Guac Shop Mexican Grill co-owner Matt Tesoriero at the Garden City restaurant on Jan. 17. Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams Jr.

There’s a learning curve when you start any business, which is why flexibility is key.

Vito Pagano, Shawn Smith and Peter Daly learned this firsthand after launching their mobile marketing app, GettinLocal, in April.

The app’s geofencing capabilities push out alerts, offers and promotions to app users who may be nearby or who match companies’ target profiles or demographics. GettinLocal also allows small companies that don’t have their own apps to have a mobile app presence.

The Westbury firm started with about half a dozen businesses that were helping to test drive GettinLocal, but it quickly realized tweaks and adjustments needed to be made on the technology’s back end based on different businesses’ needs.

For example, one business wanted the app to send a coupon that could be used by customers only once rather than repeatedly. Another client wanted the app to recognize that it had multiple locations that customers could visit.

“We needed to learn the pain points and how our customers were going to use [the app] and what their needs were,” said Pagano, GettinLocal president and CEO.

Once the company did that, it was able to make enhancements and ultimately relaunch the app last month. With that relaunch came a marketing push, and the platform now has more 700 businesses representing more than 1,000 locations on it. And 2,000-plus consumers are using it, says Pagano.

“It was a learning experience,” he said, adding, “You have to adapt to grow.”

That’s apparently a common experience among entrepreneurs, considering that “failure to pivot” was identified as one of the top 20 reasons startups fail, according to CB Insights, a firm that examines technology trends.

“”Where you start off is typically not where you end up,” says Robert Paulson of Paulson Strategy Group, an executive coach in Riverhead. “All businesses need to be open to change.”

So while entrepreneurs need to do a certain amount of planning as they start their business, they also must be willing to adapt based on feedback and their clients’ needs, he said.

For new businesses starting out, Paulson said, “I would suggest outlining a basic plan, with the understanding that it’s likely to change.”

To be sure, GettinLocal has “made several dozen enhancements since the app launched in beta,” said Smith, the company’s chief product officer. “We built a structure where we could react very quickly.”

The GettinLocal platform allows businesses to create their own custom mobile profile within the app with pertinent information, including locations, hours of operation, links to company social media accounts and any offers. A search function within GettinLocal lets customers look for a business by name or using keywords, and see relevant nearby offers.

If customers click on a “loyalty” heart on a business’ profile, it means they’re open to receiving more information from that business and the business can then send them push notifications or in-app messages, said Pagano, noting the app is free for consumers to download. Pagano said consumer information is not sold to third parties, nor is it accessible by the merchant, but companies can see information on their followers’ demographics: For example, the merchants’ message section might show that a business has 100 followers and then show that company how many of them are males between the ages of 30 and 65.

Businesses can set parameters within GettinLocal and send offers to particular audiences, such as females ages 24 to 30, or target consumers who come within a certain radius of a company’s location, ranging from 80 feet to 50 miles, said Smith.

The targeting capability is attractive, says Matt Tesoriero, co-owner of Guac Shop Mexican Grill in Garden City, who has made different offers to different audiences using the app.

For example, he enticed college students to download the app by offering them a one-time discounted $3 burrito.

He said GettinLocal has leveled the playing field for his eatery as it competes with some of the larger chains that may have their own apps.

“It would be very costly . . . to have our own custom app,” says Tesoriero.

Other business users include Calda Pizzeria & Restaurant, based in Levittown, and Lessing’s Hospitality Group, whose catering facilities include The Mansion at Oyster Bay in Woodbury and whose restaurants include View in Oakdale.

The app was free for businesses during the beta-testing phase, but in January the firm instituted a payment structure that gives merchants a free 90-day trial and then has them pay $20 monthly, plus an added $5 a month if they want to include additional locations.

GettinLocal has expanded its reach to Manhattan and nationally thanks in part to a college ambassador program in place at about a dozen campuses nationwide where students are using and promoting the app to merchants, said Daly, the company’s chief operating officer and a former Visa executive.

“It’s exceeded our expectations,” he said.

And there’s potential for growth. There are an estimated 229.5 million smartphone app users in the United States in 2019, and 241.2 million are anticipated by 2022, according to eMarketer.

Many of these mobile users are open to receiving offers, but the “key is transparency and value with what you’re offering,” says Yory Wurmser, principal mobile analyst with eMarketer. Consumers want businesses to be transparent about how they’re using their data, and they want offers that meet their needs, which comes down to knowing who your clients and customers are, he said.

Jesse Day, 19, a sophomore at Adelphi University in Garden City, said he’s found relevant offers on the platform. “As a college student, it’s nice to have these deals because money is tight,” he added.

Going forward, GettinLocal hopes to add enhanced capabilities, and to broaden its marketing reach.

“I see tremendous opportunity going forward,” said Pagano.

At a glance

Company: Westbury-based GettinLocal

Co-founders: Vito Pagano, Shawn Smith and Peter Daly

Type of service: Mobile marketing app

Users: More than 1,000 business locations on the platform and 2,000-plus consumers using it

Employees: 4

Revenue: Pre-revenue; anticipates profitability in the next 8-1/2 months.

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