Posted on November 30, 2018
By Tia Lyons
Locals and visitors to El Dorado will soon be able to better navigate the city and have access to more details about local businesses and events by downloading a free, mobile app that is designed for Main Street cities across the country.
During a specially called meeting Thursday, the El Dorado Advertising and Promotion Commission agreed to spend $3,500 to tap into the Distrix app, which provides location-based services for local businesses and attractions and automatically notifies users of any special offers, sales or promotions that participating businesses may be offering.
The Distrix app is free to users.
The A&P commission is joining Main Street El Dorado to use the app as another tool to market and promote the city.
Dianne Hammond, chairman of the A&P commission and El Dorado City Council member, presented the $3,500 request Thursday, saying that she had discussed the matter with Beth Brumley, executive director of Main Street.
Hammond noted that she and Brumley had attended Destination Downtown, an annual, regional conference that is co-sponsored by Main Street programs in Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi.
Destination Downtown rotates among the three states each year and the 2018 conference was held September in Eureka Springs.
Hammond said the Distrix app was one of the topics that was discussed during the conference and it was described as a relatively inexpensive way to promote local merchants.
She also said Distrix falls in line with A&P commission efforts to increase its digital footprint in promoting the city.
“People can pull it up and see anything we have downtown. They can walk by any store or business and it’ll tell them exactly what that store has, what they specialize in,” Hammond explained.
“When people come to town for conferences or tournaments, if there’s a softball tournament or any other event that’s going on, it’ll be on there. It just lets people know what we have to offer here,” she continued.
Brumley said the app benefits small businesses, who often do not have large advertising or promotion budgets. Plus, merchants will be able to keep pace with technological changes in the way people shop.
“They have a choice of whether they want to join or not. It’ll show a brief description about (participating) businesses, but with a membership fee of $10 a month, businesses can go in and edit and show any sales, specials or giveaways they may be having,” Brumley said. “You know, a lot of people now shop digitally.”
Several downtown businesses have already signed up for the Distrix app, and Brumley said Main Street is working to find out what other businesses are interested.
She also said the organization is ironing out the final detail and board members hope to have the project completed and fully available to the public by February.
In addition to informational displays about local businesses and events, Hammond said Distrix uses its locator service for two other programs — an interactive walking tour and scavenger hunt/geocaching activities.
Brumley said the A&P’s $3,500 contribution will help to enhance the historic downtown walking tour component.
She said Distrix will tie into the existing walking tour and map, which lists 16 points of interest.
“It’ll be a mobile version of the walking tour. People will have audio playing of what’s in the brochure and more details than what’s in the brochure,” Brumley said.
“I’m not technologically savvy. How would I know about it to download it?” A&P Commissioner Judy Ward asked, referring to the Distrix app.
Hammond and Brumley, who did not attend the A&P meeting, said the Distrix app is tagged onto to other websites and social media platforms, including the city’s GoElDorado.com website and the social media accounts of Main Street and participating businesses.
Brumley also said that “when everything is up and rolling,” Main Street will begin advertising the Distrix app to spread the word about its availability in El Dorado.
A&P Commissioner Barry Bagwell asked if usage of the app can be monitored.
Hammond and Brumley said Distrix tracks such information and Brumley said the reports will be sent to Main Street, who will in turn, distribute the information to the A&P commission.
Ward asked if the commission had the money in its budget to cover the $3,500 funding request and Commissioner Sanjay Patel, treasurer of the commission, said yes.
“I say we try it for a year and see what happens,” said Patel, who initially expressed reluctance in spending money on the app.
Brumley said the $3,500 is a one-time licensing fee.
“Once they build it, it’s ours,” Brumley said of the app.
In other business, the commission selected Sinuhé (Jesse) Ayala, owner of Black Cat Café, to fill the unexpired term of Steve Mattern, who passed away in June.
Ayala was one of three candidates to apply for a spot that called for the owner or manager of a restaurant or hotel.
Other candidates were Kellie Harrison, owner of the Olde Towne Store, and Madison Louden, a Hot Springs native and manager of the Fairfield Inn and Suites, a new hotel that is opening behind McDonald’s on North West Avenue.
Commissioners will forward their recommendation for Ayala to Mayor Frank Hash, who will submit it to the El Dorado City Council for final approval.
The term expires in October 24, 2020.