People like you have been asking some very good questions about how Main and Me works. Here are some of the most common questions received since we’ve launched.
Q: Is this an app or a website or both?
A: Main and Me is a web app and an iPhone app (Android coming soon). The website displays galleries of goods and services for sale in nearby local independent businessess (no matter where you are) so online shoppers can find local sources for the things they want and need before running off to Amazon, Target and the other non local-supportive brands that dominate online shopping.
The mobile app displays what’s for sale in the local businesses immediately around you (whether you’re in your own town, or visiting new places across the country), and serves as the ever-ready “uptake” device for when shoppers (and business owners) want to add photos to their wish lists (and online storefront pages).
Q: How will it work? Who does what? Do shoppers take photos, or do businesses, or both?
A: The revolutionary thing about Main and Me is that either merchants or shoppers can start creating store pages for their community, simply by snapping a photo, captioning it and “checking it in” (the check in feature having been borrowed from Foursquare and other location-based services). Main and Me employs this “user-generated content” strategy so that a single (!) shopper or merchant can kickstart the process of building a Main and Me network in any given location. When shoppers upload photos of their favorite local goods and services, merchants can claim pages created on their behalf (or not) and add even more items to them. The Main and Me “ecosystem” consists of free Store Pages (pages dedicated to the offerings of a single business), Community pages (where we collect all the offerings of all the businesses in a town or neighborhood) and shoppers’ 100% local-supportive wish lists and registries (created from the local products and services uploaded to the site).
Q: What about businesses who already have a website or Facebook page?
Main and Me is designed to complement–not compete with–your existing web assets. However, it’s still every person for themselves on the web and Facebook, meaning you pay for your own site, you manage your own SEO, you spend endless hours building traffic. Main and Me is different. Our automatically-generated Community Pages leverage the traffic generated by all the stores in your town and deliver the benefit to every individual business. Think of it as your town’s “virtual Main Street” online, making it possible for online shoppers to windowshop the whole town, browse, or search by keyword for local sources for the things they might otherwise buy from malls, big box stores and Big Internet Retail. And because it’s free to use for discovery (for life!), there’s nothing to lose and everything to gain. (Psst: because anyone can kickstart your town’s network, it doesn’t even require agreement among, shall we say, contentious members of downtown shopping districts to use it.)
Q: What’s the customer’s incentive to use Main and Me? Do they get a deal? Do they find something unique that they couldn’t get elsewhere? What do they get (beyond helping their community)?
A: We love the deal idea, but not the scorched-earth way that Groupon does it. We like the model of merchants quietly offering deals in a “feature panel” at the top of their Store Page (and downtown directors at the top of their Community Pages), so it’s the first thing an online shopper sees. We’re investigating the right way to do this, but agreed: the option for private deals created by business owners should be in the channel. Just not the way Groupon does it.
Q: Will you highlight the uniqueness of local businesses and their products and services?
A: We are all about celebrating uniqueness and indie spirit (national chains need not apply). We think user-generated photos of products and stores (as opposed to professional catalog shots) will capture the unique flavor of every local shop. Additionally, free Store Pages and Community Pages may be customized by their owners once claimed.
Q: Do the shops have a sticker and/or sign letting people know their stuff is on Main and Me?
A: It isn’t necessary, but we plan to provide any local merchant who wants to promote the first “Amazon-slaying” shop local tool 🙂 with all the shop window stickers (and funny posters) they could ever ask for. Check out our Facebook page for a sample (and PLEASE like us while you’re there…I mean, if you DO actually like us)
Q: Do shoppers buy stuff online?
A: Online purchasing will be possible when appropriate, but our initial focus will be to facilitate local discovery (and help you fight Amazon) as quickly as possible. Once ecommerce capability arrives, merchants who worry they will have to maintain inventories or ship items may rest easy. Ecommerce won’t be right for many of you. Participation will be opt-in, and those who opt may choose to either sell actual items, or store credit in the name of items.
Q: Will you place some sort of infographic to describe why local, indie businesses benefit their communities?
A: Yes. Our mission is to level the playing on field on which local independent merchants compete with Amazon. We’ll use every arrow in the quiver to accomplish that.