Mobile booming like early days of search, Google Canada chief says

Mobile growth is expanding just as fast as search in its early days, and entrepreneurs should be taking advantage of that to build startups that can address small business pain, according to the head Google Canada.

Mobile is now—that type of growth is not seen anywhere else” said Chris O’Neill of Google Canada Inc., Referring to trending seen in the consumer space, mobile is now growing eight times faster than the Web did in the 1990s, and panelists at Vancouver’s Grow Conference agreed there is ample opportunity to turn a profit in the space..

The last decade has been so focused on serving the consumer, said Darrell MacMullin, managing director of PayPal Canada Inc., and this has resulted in an installed user base which truly understands mobile. But there exists a saturation point in the consumer marketplace—there can only be so many startups focusing on restaurants, shops, and gadgets that the market can support. MacMullin challenged entrepreneurs to develop startups that address SMB problems—this is where opportunity exists and tremendous growth is occurring, he says.

Square, a startup created by Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey whose iPhone adapter allows merchants to accept credit card payments on the fly,  was discussed by panelists as a company that has built incredible success by solving a small business problem through mobile. Building on the groundwork laid by companies like PayPal, Square has disrupted the payment paradigm in the US, and ample space exists for entrepreneurs to recognize similar opportunities in SMBs and address them with compelling products and services.

MacMullin also spoke of bridging the gap between the online space and bricks and mortar locations. PayPal has succeeded in removing many barriers to payment, both online and offline, and has paved the path for startups to provide solutions for SMB, he said. Entrepreneurs need to work with traditional business owners to develop tools that drive physical business through an effective online experience.

Daily deal sites were discussed by panelists as tools that work to bridge the online with local businesses. The panelists agreed that daily deals can be incredibly effective for local businesses, with the key being a carefully considered strategy behind the deal, and a predominant goal of building loyal return customers. “The business owner needs to focus on getting the right user base who’s really going to come back” said Yelp’s director of business development, Mike Ghaffary.

Business owners have to carefully consider their strategy in order to ensure that the daily deal results in long term repeat business. Before investing in a daily deal, Ghaffary said, business owners need to research what people are saying online, address the areas of concern, and ensure they are investing wisely in the deal. Appearing on Groupon or Yelp Deals isn’t cheap, and owners need to address their weaknesses before driving traffic to their business, Ghaffary advised.

The daily deal sites  represent what is shaping the Web right now, O’Neill says, with an inherent combination of the local, mobile, social, and personal. These sites are taking advantage of an increased awareness and understanding of the Web to cater to an emerging market catering to local businesses, previously uninterested or unable to use Web resources.

These opportunities provide concrete reasons for entrepreneurs to develop a cohesive understanding of the market needs and the gaps in SMB. Viable business models exist by tapping a client base that is increasingly aware and demanding personalized service, both online and off.

Martin Studzinski is a marketing and communications professional and technology enthusiast. You can follow him on Twitter @martstudz or reach him via email at [email protected].

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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