A lot has happened to Summit-based tech startup PlaceCodes since NJTechWeekly.com covered the startup in this “10 Questions” article last year. Business is booming at the growing company, which has pivoted and found a niche where it believes it can be very successful.
PlaceCodes was particularly busy this July, as the City of Summit used the company’s platform to provide an app called Close.By/Summit to drive local commerce from visitors taking the train to Summit for the PGA Championships at Baltusrol Golf Club (Springfield). The event was hugely successful, according to PlaceCodes CEO and cofounder David Ingerman.
“The app and website delivered over 13,000 mobile pages about local merchants, events and offers to more than 1,000 visitors, and we reached more than 5,000 people through social media,” he said.
Close.By/Millburn launched in October. After many merchants complained that Millburn’s “Girls’ Night Out” event was too time-intensive and supported only a limited number of merchants for one night a year, the nonprofit organization Downtown Millburn looked for a solution to support all of their merchants all year long.
It selected PlaceCodes’ Close.By platform to promote businesses to residents, employees and visitors, Ingerman said. Downtown Millburn mentioned that, for about the same amount it cost to promote a handful of merchants for one night, it will be able to support 200 businesses year-round.
Concurrently with these launches, PlaceCodes has focused on providing a turnkey platform to help local businesses compete in the digital world. The startup has worked on providing a “beautiful user interface that helps consumers find products, promotions and parking in a single place,” Ingerman said.
Also, the company is driving incremental business to area stores and companies using location technologies such as GPS and beacons, and is allowing merchants to run cross-promotions, or “pairings,” together.
According to Ingerman, the newest phase of the PlaceCodes story began when the company did some serious research on domain names and subsequently secured the name “Close.By.”
The team found that the number of searches on Google with the words “close by” and “near me” had gone up 34 times (34 X) in four years, and so decided to purchase the Close.By domain.
According to its app description, Close.By helps you “find and get to the most relevant products, places, parking and promotions in your community, using state-of the art technologies. From last-minute clearance sales or event seating, to special insider knowledge about best parking or product availability, Close.by brings you the best of your town. Close.By can also send local offers (many available nowhere else), from businesses you are interested in hearing from, directly to your phone via email or a screen notification.”
The cross-marketing portion of PlaceCodes is enabled by a beacon network or GPS, Ingerman told us. Very small mom-and-pop stores are provided with beacons, usually only one for each store. When a shopper who has opted to receive offers walks into a store that is equipped with a beacon, he or she will receive a notification about the store’s or its partner store’s discounts and coupons.
In Summit, PlaceCodes has piloted its cross-marketing platform with a number of businesses. For example, if you’re an app user and you walk into Rosalita or Tito’s restaurants, you will see a message pop up from the local wine store. Since these are BYOB places, you might welcome wine delivery from one of these stores. Or if you go to buy a toy at The Toy Professor, you might be invited to check out the Learning Circle (YMCA) childcare center. At the Learning Circle, you will get a pop-up offering a discount on a toy at The Toy Professor.
Placecodes has also established itsself in Philadelphia, in the area around the University of Pennsylvania, which is an active area teaming with students and industry.
Asked how PlaceCodes had achieved awareness for its app, Ingerman admitted that it hadn’t been easy, but they had succeeded through “a lot of social media marketing, word of mouth and partnerships with BIDs (Business Improvement Districts) and other entities.”
The startup is also working with big name brands to leverage Close.By links in social media, websites and email. Consumers can tap and find products near them like AdamLevine.Close.By (for the Adam Levine Collection) and McDonalds.Close.By.
“With the right data, we can basically create a solution to find anything “Close.By” in a matter of minutes, and provide some interesting data and heat maps on the back-end,” Ingerman said.