“Mashed Potato and Bacon Pizza. THIS is what you want for dinner.”
That call to heartburn from Southern California-based URBN Coal Fired Pizza might greet you if you were in the neighborhood and had 1app.
The iOS app is the latest effort to tap local businesses’ need to stay in touch with their neighborhood. Today, La Jolla, California-based 1AppWorks is releasing the app beyond its initial two test neighborhoods. An Android version is coming out by summer’s end. Founded in 2013, the company has raised $3 million in seed funding so far.
The app allows bars, restaurants, retail stores, hair salons, and similar establishments to “fight back against malls, big brands, and ecommerce,” CEO and cofounder Paul Love told me.
It does this by offering push notifications, news feeds, and profiles from local businesses, proximity-based loyalty rewards, discount coupons, and maps. 1AppWorks also installs a Bluetooth beacon in each participating business to provide location sensing inside the store, since GPS often fails past the front door.
The default screen for entry into a neighborhood shows a scroll of the participating businesses in the area, and a click leads to a business’ profile page.
Neighborhood-based apps could solve one beacon-related issue — the need to have an app supported by that business. Customers are not going to have separate apps for every business they visit.
Since April, the app has been tested in more than 90 businesses, split almost evenly between areas around the North Park section of San Diego and San Francisco’s Mission District. Several previous versions from 1AppWorks experimented with the idea, but were oriented toward hotels, motels, and other hospitality businesses.
The company reports over 4,000 downloads across both neighborhoods, with about 2,000 unique users frequenting those two neighborhoods at least once weekly.
In the past three weeks, it said, about 125 uniques have entered the participating merchants. The average number of followers for each merchant is 115. There’s no data yet on how much those visitors actually spend.
A dashboard in 1app, also available via desktop Web, allows businesses to manage their own presence and relationships.
During the test, the app dashboard and the beacons were provided for free to the businesses, and the app was made known through a full-time sales rep. The app is free for customers. The company said it is now in discussion for partnerships with unnamed companies who can provide sales to small businesses in other neighborhoods. When it rolls out, a monthly fee will range from $50 to $5,000, depending on business size, and the beacons will have a separate charge.
Of course, a ripe and large market like local businesses does not go unnoticed by others. But, 1AppWorks’ executive chairman Cliff Boro said, small businesses “have a choice whether to use a platform they can’t control,” like the user-driven Yelp, Foursquare, and Facebook.
Travis LeGrand, general manager of bistro/beer bar Waypoint Public in San Diego, told me via email that his company “hasn’t used too many other apps, but we do use Facebook and Twitter.”
“On those platforms I have no idea where someone will be if and when they see one of my posts, but with 1app I know they are very likely to be in the neighborhood, and much more likely to come into the restaurant,” said LeGrand.
“1app is so much more,” he said.