Leveling the E-commerce Playing Field for Indie Retailers

Leveling the E-commerce Playing Field for Indie Retailers

By Janna Williams

When almost everything people need can be accessed in the palm of their hand, an online presence isn’t a choice for independent businesses.


Let’s face it – e-commerce statistics are daunting.

  • The desire for instant access, around-the-clock accessibility and fast turnaround will be the norm by 2026, driven in particular by millennials (born approximately 1980–95) and Generation Z consumers (born approximately 1996–2010).
  • 4 in 10 purchases are made using only an online channel for searching and buying.
  • Americans spend 64% of their shopping budget in-store, and 36% online.
  • 88% of shoppers characterize detailed product content as being extremely important to their purchasing decisions.

How is independent business keeping up? While fighting this behavior isn’t an option, pairing new and innovative technology with pro-local information and action is the way to help level the e-commerce playing field for local independent businesses.

I recently had the pleasure of speaking with Mike Massey, Founder and President of Locally. His company’s platform connects consumers to premium brands and in-stock products at local retailers – the e-commerce answer to keeping local dollars spent…well…locally!

Where did the idea for Locally come from?

In 2014, a small group of outdoor retailers determined that consumer behavior was changing and that retailers would need to get their inventory information in front of online shoppers. They wanted a tool that functioned like OpenTable which would connect shoppers’ online behavior to local area purchasing options.

What philosophy drives Locally?

I am a third-generation retailer who was involved with pioneering e-commerce in 1997 along with Amazon in the early 2000’s. Through this process, I realized how consumer shopping was rapidly changing.

Consumers want to have the option to research products and shop 24 hours a day, when convenient, around work schedules and daily life. Rather than try to change consumer behavior, local retail needs to match their cadence. For instance – Home Depot has adapted to a digital future and provides a successful example of a buy-online/pick-up in-store system. This is a light that local business can aim to follow.

What benefit do retailers and brands get from using Locally?

We set out to fix foot traffic.

An issue retailers face is that brands are directing consumers to their inventory by saying, “Go to this business.” That’s not enough. To better serve retailers, we work with brands by implementing digital tactics to show consumers their products not only are in a store near them, and that store has the item they want, but they also can pre-pay to enable speedy pick-up. This provides retailers with a 1000% visibility boost on the most important shopping sites on the internet.

Brands, on the other hand, are often run by executives who did not grow up in the digital age. Because of this, brand search tools like store locators are not updated regularly, if at all, which leads to a broken shopping experience that further inhibits consumers from going to physical stores to purchase what they need. The big problem with this system is that direct online sales to consumers are limited. The average brand site only sells a product to 1% – 1.5% of their visitors, and an order is usually for only around 1.1 items. This happens because online purchasing doesn’t lend itself to single-brand and cross-shopping.

That isn’t true in a store. The average store checkout involves 4 to 5 items. If someone purchases a jacket for local in-store pick-up, the store has the opportunity to sell them pants, shoes, and socks. This happens, in part, when consumers have the physical product in their hands, giving them a sense of ownership. Increased foot traffic provides major benefits for brands and their retailers.

What long-term benefit do you see for retailers?

Locally is building Amazon backwards to create a local online solution for a convenient in-store shopping experience. Think about all the ways we pre-purchase or make reservations to make life more convenient. In addition to making restaurant reservations, we now can reserve seats at the theatre or have our boarding passes ready before we get to the airport. Think of an in-store retail experience being this simple.

Locally is a digital version of your local stores – a single resource telling you where to buy what you are looking for. Whether you need specialty items like nurse scrubs or general items like ski equipment and apparel, Locally directs shoppers to the retailers that have the item in their area from brand sites, social media, search results, and Locally-powered retailer sites and tools.

Is Locally focused primarily on brands and chains? Where does independent business fit in?

We aren’t doing cart-and-horse or chicken-and-egg. We are doing cart, horse, chicken, AND egg all in one shot.

A part of what Locally does shifts online shopping to local business by providing more information to consumers about making a local purchase before they get in their car and drive somewhere. This includes brands, chains, and independent business.

By servicing all local business, Locally gives consumers options they may not have thought of before. Independent businesses with the same products available for purchase as larger chain options are listed side-by-side with equal footing.

Are you getting support from manufacturers?

Yes! We currently have support from 160 manufacturers and have recently had our biggest quarter to date. We are always looking to expand, and that involves having very large brands understand what we do. This supports our goal of supporting every industry.

What are some strong examples of manufacturers supporting independent dealers?

Brooks Running is a good example of an independently-focused manufacturer. They have really worked to support local running shops via our technology. We would love to say “buy local,” but that is up to the brands and businesses who choose to work with us. The best thing we can do is provide independent business a side-by-side representation with the big guys.

How much time does Locally take to set up and use?

It is quick. Because Locally tracks 129,000 retailers globally, we can be up and running for individual brands in as little as 5 minutes. The only thing we do require is UPC data, since we can’t match products up without having that information.

What is the cost for retailers who want to use Locally?

For retailers there is no charge, since we are brand-supported. A charge occurs if a retailer opts to allow purchasing through our site.

What other technology excites you for helping independent businesses?

Soon we will be launching vendor-managed inventory with a system designed to absorb a 50-mile radius of shopper behavior information. So when retailers submit their inventory to us, we can give them the information they need to better carry the items that local customers are trying to buy.

*2018 e-commerce statistics by Disruptive Advertising

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