By Mario Toneguzzi
A unique and innovative digital platform has been created to bring online shoppers back to brick and mortar retail stores.
“The way we see it, most e-commerce is bad for communities. It extracts wealth from local economies, creates huge amounts of waste from shipping materials, employs fewer of our neighbours, and seldom pays local taxes. These companies give nothing back and the few people they employ are mostly poorly-paid warehouse and delivery workers constantly under threat of being replaced,” he said.
“We gather the products of as many retailers as we can, large and small, and put them in one place so they can easily be found and compared. No need to visit half-a-dozen websites to find the cheapest place to buy a hammer. One simple search checks all the stores in your area so you don’t have to.
“Near has lots of exciting innovations we’re bringing to market in the next few months all with this same goal in mind.”
Matthew Smith, CEO of Near Shop, said the retail industry is in a really strange place right now. There are many negative pressures on brick and mortar stores.
“We’re trying to turn that around a bit. We did pretty extensive research and saw that most people when they’re going online to shop are going either straight to Amazon or know where they’re going straightaway. A small group will search on Google but the ones that do generally get poor results and they’re not satisfied because it’s not a great shopping interface. So they tend to go to a place they know they can find what they’re looking for,” said Smith. “And about 60 percent of the time that’s Amazon.
“So it’s about 40 percent for the retailers to squabble over. And it’s really tough to get your product in front of those 40 percent. If you happen to be well-ranked on Google you’ve got a little better shot. But no retailer can realistically promote their entire catalogue on Google. Our notion is that there’s probably a better way to do this and we think that’s basically a search engine for products. So an interface that’s very similar to what someone shopping online would be used to on Amazon or any other e-commerce site.
“But instead of just having one retailer to choose from or the Amazon marketplace we want to have all the retailers. So you can search for hammers and it will pull up every store within whatever distance you set that have hammers there with pricing and inventory. Then you can choose. You can order online if you want but you can also hop in your car and go to the store. Our goal really is to drive people back to local retailers more easily. To make the process easier and with a little less friction.”
Smith said the company is working on bringing retailers on board who will agree to provide their catalogues.
“The first step is to make this easily accessible to (consumers). The next step of our project is to connect local stores with those online orders in a more easy way. So we’re certainly envisioning something like Uber Eats where you could open an app on your phone, search for the hammer and see all the hammers in your store and then order it and have some guy with his car run over to the store and bring it to your house in an hour or two,” he said.
“It’s delivering the same level of service you can get with an Amazon but still supporting local retailers. We understand that not everyone is going to go back to brick and mortar stores but more than anything we want to keep as much of that money in the local economy as we can instead of sending it to shareholders in Seattle for example.”
Galczynski said people are fed up with the self-isolation imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic and now want to get out and talk to people and experience the shopping, tactile, experience again.
“It eventually will settle down. Things will be a little different. But retailers are adapting,” he said. “Life will go on. We’re just reminding people that your local guys need you now more than ever. Get out there. It’s good therapy for you. It’s good for the economy. It’s good for the local economy.
“Slowly but surely we’ll get out of this. Why stop yourself from indulging in that shopping experience because that’s what it is. On the retailer point, you go online you only purchase one or two items that you’re looking for but if you’re in a store you’re picking up this, you’re picking up that. So it’s really good for everybody.”
Mario Toneguzzi, based in Calgary has 37 years of experience as a daily newspaper writer, columnist and editor. He worked for 35 years at the Calgary Herald covering sports, crime, politics, health, city and breaking news, and business. For 12 years as a business writer, his main beats were commercial and residential real estate, retail, small business and general economic news. He nows works on his own as a freelance writer and consultant in communications and media relations/training. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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