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The year is 2013, but for many local merchants, it might as well be 15 years earlier. Some local shops still don’t have websites, and those that do often simply list their phone numbers and operating hours, with a few photos. “The vast majority of consumers research products on the Web as a starting point,” says Ben Saren, cofounder of CitySquares, which promotes the products and services of local businesses. “Yet local retailers think the buying process starts when someone walks into their stores.”
Trying to sell technology to local retailers, he says, is “just a real slog.” And yet a new crop of enthusiastic entrepreneurs is trying to help local merchants defend their businesses, at a moment when online shopping is booming.