Today’s guest entry by Tanya (right) is the first in our Women In Technology (WIT) blog series. In this series, we will hear from women within Groupon that work in the product and engineering space. These women will discuss their experiences at Groupon, what got them into technology, and the latest and greatest industry trends.
I ❤ Sunnyvale, CA!
If you live outside the Bay Area, you’ve probably never heard of it. It has a colorful ecosystem of shops, restaurants, and small businesses that cater to a large immigrant community. I get my eyebrows threaded at a local Indian beauty parlor and get my pedis at my neighborhood Vietnamese-owned nail salon. I love to explore the many specialty Asian eateries. Consumer demand is so fine-grained that local restaurants can specialize in regional foods: meals, snacks, desserts, teas, and baked delicacies from different states and provinces from Taiwan to Mexico. Sunnyvale’s local businesses offer residents rich, new experiences, while also letting them continue traditions from the countries they’ve left behind.
This local experience is more intimate– I see people from my neighborhood and chat with business owners and employees. As I watch small business owners managing their staff, keeping up with their customers’ changing needs, and making sure the bills get paid, it’s clear that they are very busy people! So busy, in fact, that they often don’t have the time they’d like to tackle tasks like digital marketing or identifying the next big thing that will grow their business. As a result, local merchants need simple but powerful tools that integrate frictionlessly into their existing workflows and don’t take a lot of time to master. They need the power of technology, without all the fuss. As a Product Manager, I try to channel all of this when I build products for local merchants.
However, it’s precisely the specialized, small scale, and off-line nature of local businesses that create big challenges when trying to build scalable technology for their needs. There are millions of merchants in the United States alone, but less than 50% of them have websites. Those that do, often don’t have the time or resources to build them out. As a result, gathering rich, reliable digital data about small local businesses is not easy– but the most exciting problems in tech never are! In Local, we have the opportunity to be innovative by identifying non-obvious information sources to create massive unstructured data sets, bringing the offline world into a format where we can use programmatic approaches such as machine learning and text analysis to glean insight. We then have to go one step further distilling, packaging, and presenting those insights for our busy merchants.
“Buy Local” has become a rallying cry. For technologists, I’d like to urge you all to “Build Local” as well! Let your local communities be your muse, just as Sunnyvale has been mine.
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