Keeping it Local

Locally Offers Tools for Modern Retail

By Mark Strella

Our company, Locally, was founded in 2013 by a group of retailers, reps and marketers because technology was changing everything about our businesses. Consumers were glued to their computers, phones and tablets, beginning their product research journey online. This led to an increasing disconnection between “I want this product,” and “Bob’s Outdoors five minutes down the road has it.” And while a few huge sites were able to capitalize on this changing behavior, virtually all other retailers were struggling to adapt. A few were trying to run an ecommerce store, but that was an unprofitable option for all but the savviest, most dedicated companies.   

It’s no secret that the internet and the rise of e-commerce disrupted everything and threatened to collapse a well–established system. Amazon now accounts for close to half of all internet sales. Online sales grow 9% a year. Nearly every shopper performs some to all of their product research online. But still, the vast majority of product inventory is invisible to online shoppers and almost all sales in the US are still happening in local stores.

 

Our company knows that there is a kind of shopper out there that we don’t talk enough about: the online-to-offline shopper. This shopper researches products on the internet, but for a variety of reasons—immediacy, or a desire get the right fit the first time, or an aversion to the hassles of dealing with shipping and returns, or in steadfast support of their local economy, or maybe all of the above—they choose to make their purchase in a local brick-and-mortar.

 

In 2015, Deloitte’s annual Holiday survey found that while 52% of shoppers planned on the dreaded “showrooming” (looking at an item in store and then buying it online), 69% of shoppers planned to “webroom,” or research online and then go into a store. This was the first year that webrooming was higher than showrooming. As proof of this emerging trend, today over 40% of sales on HomeDepot.com are for “Pay Online, Pick Up In Store.”

 

There is a gaping opportunity for brands and retailers to take advantage of this clear signal and better serve the shopper of 2016 by broadcasting inventory across the the entire internet, not just closed silos, and enabling the consumer to choose the best option that will work for them; walk into a local shop, order from a website, shop in a marketplace, use a tool to reserve a product in a store, or maybe some combination of those.

 

Have you ever wondered why old theaters have “Air Conditioning” in big, bold letters across the front of their building? In 1925, a game-changing innovation for many businesses was—you guessed it—air conditioning. One of the most visible groups of proactive business people to quickly understand the competitive advantage it provides was theater owners. Those who were quick to adapt thrived, and those who dragged their feet, well… would you go to a movie theater without air conditioning?

 

Just like theater owners, retailers will either see this shift in consumer behavior as a problem or an opportunity. Stores that adapt and pursue a strategy that gets their inventory information in front of online shoppers will reap the benefits of more patronage. Retailers that fail to discern the clear message that shoppers are sending are putting themselves in substantial jeopardy.

 

We’re also convinced that in the world of wholesale-retail relationships, all of us need to be working back to partnerships and sales channel harmony.  

 

While most brands effectively acquire online shoppers to their brand, 98-99% of those shoppers leave a website without making any type of transaction. Typically, many shoppers will visit the brand’s dealer locator, signaling a clear purchase preference. Unfortunately most brands currently have no effective way of guiding a shopper any further than to a store’s address and are therefore neglecting to facilitate a shopping behavior that is increasingly in demand. Brands that see incorporating local inventory into their digital efforts as an opportunity to enhance their consumer experience, lock in sales, and strengthen their relationships with dealers stand to benefit greatly.  

 

Try to think of a brand that offers no local support and you will find an extreme exception. Even Apple was quick to recognize this consumer trend, despite selling billions of dollars of merchandise online. Those who fail facilitate this experience in lieu of short-term goals risk what we liken to “colony collapse.”

 

Once specialty stores are no longer able to successfully market or sell a particular brand, you become highly susceptible to losing a key distribution channel that is critical for building enthusiasm for your products. Once that happens, only the rarest brands will continue to see sales growth, online or off. And when a key channel is no longer competitive, or you hand the primary customer relationship over to a few large retailers, it won’t take long before you are pinched.

 

Locally spends every waking hour thinking about how to best bring this experience to shoppers. While there are many firms out there thinking about this, we approach the process from a deep understanding of the wholesale-retail relationship and developed a comprehensive platform to achieve these goals.

 

We power Product Locators for a rapidly growing list of major, premium brand websites, such as Thule.com, OspreyPacks.com and ToadandCo.com. We power Dealer Locators for brands like Brooks Running, Simms Fishing and Mountain Hardwear that allow a shopper to digitally browse the inventory at nearby dealers. Our new Event Locator helps brands add a powerful online component to product releases, events and more. We power drop-in tools called Locally Pages and Locally Pages for Facebook to allow any retailer to easily broadcast their stock on their own websites and their social media pages in minutes. And our own site, Locally.com, is a growing marketplace for what’s in stock nearby; it’s earning hundreds of thousands of first-page search results to intercept online shoppers on search engines and send them to stores.

 

At the heart of Locally is a single, free inventory feed for a retailer, designed to be so simple that a retailer of nearly any level of technical sophistication can easily incorporate it into their business. With a growing list of Point of Sale System partnerships providing plug-in-and-play integrations for leading systems like RICS, Ascend, Lightspeed and more, some retailers can be live and broadcasting inventory throughout our ecosystem in minutes.

 

And the platform grows weekly. This month’s release of our Locally AI (“Actionable Insights”) platform will gather all of the data we collect in over 320 cities in the US and Canada about what products shoppers are looking for and present it to participating brands and retailers to help optimize what retailers stock, marketing and more. And there’s no end to what we can accomplish together. We receive good ideas from retailers and brands daily—our biggest challenge is keeping up.


About Locally

Locally is a mission-driven company owned by retailers, reps and industry-representatives dedicated to building the definitive platform for helping online shoppers find and buy products in nearby stores. Locally works with hundreds of retailers in over 320 cities in the US and Canada and powers tools for dozens of leading brands in outdoors, running, fish, bike, sporting goods, ski and snow, baby and more. Learn more at brands.locally.com and retailers.locally.com, or contact Mike Massey, President, at mike.massey@locally.com.
 

Leave a comment