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By fusing online ease and in-store service, Locally.com breathes life into struggling specialty shops.
When Mike Massey first started selling on Amazon, he said it was like the Wild West.
“It felt like having 900 stores in one mall,” he said. “We’re just all getting on top of each other.” Brands that aggressively improved their direct-to-consumer availability saw their brick-and-mortar presence weaken, in turn reducing sales.
So Massey came up with another solution: He joined forces with programmers and other industry members to create Locally.com, an online platform that connects consumers with the products they’re looking for in local shops. Brands pay a per-store subscription fee (maxing out at $1 per store) to have their gear show up on the platform. For specialty retailers, it’s completely free. All they have to do is provide the UPCs and quantities in their inventory.
Prior to Locally.com, no one was taking advantage of geographically hopeful Google searches like “Osprey pack in New Orleans,” Massey said. Locally.com allows customers to put products on hold and pick them up in-store. Starting this winter, the site will also connect buyers to delivery services from Uber Rush to bike couriers, but it eschews online purchases, funneling customers to the physical store. This piece is critical; Massey said an online shopper checks out with about one item on average. In-store, they leave with five.
Getting a product through Locally.com boosts sales for both brands and retailers and lets both focus on what they do best.
“Let us do the design and manufacturing, let the retailers market the product,” said Barry Barr, founder and president of Kavu, one of the latest brands considering a subscription. “We’re behind the scenes. We’re the smoke and mirrors.” To Barr, joining up “just makes sense.” It supports specialty retailers on a platform that’s aesthetically appealing and easy for consumers to use, he said.
“Joining up isn’t a goal—it’s an inevitability,” said Gregor Finke of Patagonia, which also has a subscription in its crosshairs.
Brands are overwhelmingly on board. It’s retail shops that have proven reluctant to adopt new technology.
Because of that hesitation, “retail tech hasn’t evolved in 20 years,” Massey said, even though specialty stores need it desperately to keep up with the online giants. He compared the door-to-door pitching process to herding cats.
“There’s been a slowness to adopt from independent retailers,” said Bill Chandler, director of domestic sales with Osprey, the first company to subscribe to Locally
.com. It’s a fear of the unknown and a fear of technological hassle—one Chandler says is unfounded.
“This is the single lowest-cost way to add value to your business,” he said. “It takes a half hour to an hour to sign up, and it’s free.”
Jonathan Scott, operations manager at Chattanooga outfitter Rock/Creek, said his team was excited when they joined Locally.com about a year ago—not only about the product visibility and marketing reach the platform provides, but about what this means for small retailers.
“It’s closing the loop,” he said. Same-day pickup hits on the same immediacy modern consumers expect from services like Uber and Airbnb and provides the human element of face-to-face customer service. “It addresses the Amazon question. Everybody realizes that from a retail and shopping standpoint, companies like Amazon dominate the market, but this is something they can’t do,” said Scott.
Since he joined, he’s been urging other vendors to sign up. Barr does the same.
“The big guys are strong and know how to play,” Barr said. “But this is an avenue for an independent person to step forward and take back some of that business.”
This story first appeared in the Day 4 issue of Outdoor Retailer Daily.