Zaarly at Mobile Madness: 2013 a Big Year for the ‘Peer Economy’

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of the potential for supercharging local commerce. But he predicts that will change in 2013, as more people use smartphones, social networks, and next-generation apps to find local goods and services—particularly with small businesses or solo sellers, as opposed to big companies.

For example, across Zaarly’s multi-platform service, most users are still deploying their phones for the most basic of uses, communication. Browsing may be done on the Web, “but when it comes down to the logistics of contacting someone and meeting up … mobile becomes the thing,” Koester says.

“People are using it to say ‘I’ll meet you at this place,’ or ‘Here’s my phone number,’ whatever it might be. Mobile is the logistics and communications arm of many of our transactions,” he says.

So is it payments technology that’s holding back smartphones as an all-in-one commerce tool? Not necessarily so, Koester says. While much is made of the fragmented, unsettled race for who will come to dominate mobile payments (Zaarly uses a startup called Balanced), Koester says it may simply be a case of popular culture needing to catch up to the potential of the technology already in many people’s pockets.

“I don’t think that people recognize the power of their phone as a commerce tool. Really, that’s what the future will hold—people don’t even realize that they can buy stuff on their phone, that they can scan something,” he says. “I think we’re still just at the start of awareness of the power of these types of things.”

We’ll explore a lot more of these ideas at Mobile Madness New York on Dec. 4, hosted at the Microsoft Technology Center in Midtown. Get your tickets now, and we’ll see you next week.

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