Hyperlocal business directory MerchantCircle has been steadily growing as an online network and business directory for merchants in smaller towns to advertise to consumers. MerchantCircle has long targeted its site’s features towards merchants versus catering towards the consumer, as sites like Yelp and CitySearch do. Today, the network has hit a milestone by signing up its one millionth merchant. Not too shabby for the business directory, considering there are an estimated 15 million local merchants in the U.S. today.
MerchantCircle provides small businesses with a web page listing, blogging and email newsletter application, and a local business social network that focuses on connecting local businesses with each other. Since launching in 2007, the startup has gained traction in small towns where the larger sites don’t have reach. For example, 50 percent of local businesses in Wasilla, Alaska are on MerchantCircle and actively engage with the site. MerchantCircle has also added features to make the site attractive with consumers, recently launching a question feature that allows consumers to enter a question to merchants about any topic on the platform.
MerchantCircle has also upgraded its social features by creating a mini-social network around the site where consumers can “follow” local businesses for information on promotions, coupons and announcements.
While MerchantCircle may not be as popular in larger metropolises where Yelp and Citysearch are dominant, the startup has a stronghold in the smaller towns and regions. More than 20 million local consumers discover small businesses in their area via MerchantCircle every month. Of course, MerchantCircle still doesn’t see the scale of traffic as its big city competitors, but still has a steady flow of visitors to its platform. For December, comScore reports that Merchant Circle had 5.5 million unique visitors in the U.S., whereas Yelp saw 9 million unique visits and CitySearch saw 11 million unique visitors.
Of course, with its continued success, we think MerchantCircle could be on track to IPO in the coming year.