Main Street’s Comeback: Mobile’s Opportunity Is Retail’s In-Store Resurgence

It’s all happening on Main Street, and now it’s the mobile device that’ll take us there.

Change defines our industry, and mobile marketing will experience a year full of change — you can count on it. One transformation that’s coming our way is an opportunity to help drive a Main Street resurgence for SMBs. There’s something amazing happening out there. The potential is huge.

Here’s what I’ve seen: You walk the streets of suburbs, like the Pennsylvania community in which I grew up, and you see that Main Street’s coming back. Stroll the Main Street of the California city where I live and work, and you can see it happening there, too. Blocks that were dead just a few years ago are now hopping with hip, cool, local SMBs.

The stats support what I’m seeing: 2017 was the strongest year on record in the history of the NFIB Index of Small Business Optimism survey — actual sales increased by 14 points in the poll. It was a strong holiday season. But it’s more than just a holiday boost. Shoppers are ready to go small. If mom-and-pop entrepreneurs can get together with like-minded lawmakers  — even in crazy expensive places like New York City, as Curbed reports — there’s a real chance at helping this resurgence grow.

To help this comeback happen, however, it’s also going to take innovative technology and mobile solutions. So, let’s look at what’s happening, and what can happen next.

Community And Personalization: Adding Mobile To The Main Street Story

Main Street shops have always held a corner on face-to-face, one-to-one, meaningful experiences. That’s the nature of their business. There’s more to it than that, however. Main Street’s future, a new chapter for in-store retail success, is going to require long-game thinking and luck. The resurgence will turn on the intersection of mobile technology and community reinvestment.

I’m not the only person saying this.

“Small business retailers have a competitive advantage that none of these bigger, better capitalized and techno-powered retailers have: their personal touch,” wrote Pamela Danziger, the president of Unity Marketing, in an article. “It is realized not just through the personal service that specialty retailers offer, but by being vital members of the local community. This trend will reshape the retail landscape over the next decade.”

Main Street SMBs are players in the local community. That means something important in this day and age, in this era of fake news and online fraud. To be part of a constant, real, personally invested neighborhood is no small thing. It goes to the heart of what a huge segment of consumers loves about shopping.

Mobile will help SMBs respond to that segment, reaching audiences on the cutting edge of the SMB economy, allowing advertisers to offer local, meaningful experiences. The following examples show how this can happen for businesses.


The mobile-to-offline (M2O) cycle is all about consumer research followed by in-store mobile, social-media and text-based interactions with friends and family.

SMBs that commit to omnichannel can plug into shoppers’ M2O search, helping shoppers find new ideas with proactive offers and non-intrusive but inspiring mobile creative based on their shared location data. SMBs can then provide shoppers with outlets to share their love of discovery with others.

The brand inspires them with a new idea — to cross town to try a crazy new donut flavor, even if it might sell out. And when those shoppers take a chance on the experience, they snap pictures while waiting in line and share the physical-location experience. We know from our own research that more than a quarter of millennial and Gen Z shoppers say they’ll do this when the moment means something to them. It’s a killer match because Main Street is all about individuality and unique experiences in the first place. Mobile puts a spotlight on retail discoverers. It’s these local champions that SMBs crave and need to reach.

In-Store Pickup

Entrepreneurs don’t have to be big-box retailers to be players in the M2O space. Street Fight tells us that small and midsize businesses are now among the 61% of retailers with both in-store and online strategies that offer “buy online, pick up in store” options. A bike shop, for example, can put its inventory into the M2O space, allowing cyclists to build out their frames and add all kinds of gear, in-app. Then, the shop can leverage upsell and customer-experience opportunities when the customer comes into the local shop to collect their wheels.

Metrics On Main Street

Beacons and smart packaging are claiming fresh territory on the marketing stage. Proximity marketing’s value is estimated to hit $52 billion by 2023. That’s no joke, and with all this energy coming back into the sensors-based space, there’s no reason to confine metrics and analytics to big-box locations. Specifically, SMBs can add foot traffic and long-term measurements to their campaigns. And there’s still a major case for geo-fencing and geo-conquesting in the SMB ecosystem — from auto dealerships to competing storefronts.

Mobile-to-offline experiences are shaping the way SMBs survive when other models — malls, for example — are not. Here’s more good news, as CNBC puts it: “Technology has allowed mom and pops to gain exposure around the world without expanding their footprint by leveraging the power of social media and targeted marketing.”

We already know that consumers are in love with personalization. We know that they’re willing to provide data if it drives dynamic, intelligent interactions. Going back to Main Street doesn’t change this demand — it just drives it in new directions. It’s all happening on Main Street, and now it’s the mobile device that’ll take us there.


Tom Kenney is Verve’s chief executive officer. 

This story first appeared at Forbes.

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