Locally.com disclosed several metrics last week that indicate the startup is rapidly gaining traction in its quest to help retailers get their bricks-and-mortar inventory in front of online shoppers.
The startup, which is actively seeking investors for its next round of seed funding, said that as of March 31 its site was tracking 2.6 million individual products sitting on shelves in hundreds of stores and over 100 U.S. and Canadian cities. That's roughly 2.5 times the number of individual SKUs entered into its online catalog by outdoor specialty brands and their dealers.
The business makes its money by providing brands and shops with a variety of a la carte service such as; geographic analytics and shopper behaviors, on-site marketing tools, and digital marketing solutions that are geographically and demographically targeted. Brand approved retailers who operate at least one physical location are invited to upload their inventory for free. The idea is to provide consumers a single online destination where they can view a brand's entire collection, search local availability and decide how they want to proceed with their purchase be that buying locally, ordering from an nearby e-commerce site, or buying direct from a brand’s sites. As of early April, it provided access to more than 145,000 products from 2,567 brands.
“We feel pretty good about what we archived in nine months,” Locally.com Co-founder Mike Massey told The B.O.S.S. Report March 31. “We signed up 17 retail locations in the last nine days. We have more stores online locally than most other online search engines and marketplaces.”
Locally.com is based in part on lessons Massey learned running the e-commerce operations for Massey's Outfitters, which operates five retail locations in Louisiana. The startup launched its site in June, 2014 with The North Face, Black Diamond, Patagonia and other outdoor brands, who have the option of displaying a “Find it Locally” button on their pages. In recent months, Sea to Summit, Osprey, Deuter, Princeton Tec, Lowa, Arc’Teryx and Sierra Designs have all embraced the “Find it Locally” button.
Independent specialty retailers as diverse as Alabama Outdoors, Austin Canoe & Kayak, Campmor, Gearhead Outfitters and Valhalla Pure Outfitts are among the latest outdoor specialty retailers to begin listing their store inventory with the site.
For Gearhead Outfitters, which operates from six retail locations in Arkansas and one in Louisiana, but offers only a few hundred SKUs for sale online, Locally.com provides a quick and nearly free way to bolster online sales.
“It costs nothing,” said Ted Herget, owner of Gearhead Outfitters, which uploaded the entire inventory from all seven of its stores in March and will list inventory from an eighth when it opens later this month. “Do you know what it would cost me to hire someone to upload everything to our site? I could not afford it.”
Herget was referring to the labor costs involved in uploading images, pricing information, product descriptions and other content consumers expect to see when they shop online. Locally.com eliminates much of those costs for smaller retailers by working directly with brands, affiliates, and third party sites to aggregate that information.
While sending customers to local dealers can cost the brand's direct-to-consumer sales, dealers may have items in stock that are not available at the brand's online store or be able to meet a customer's fulfillment needs quicker and thereby prevent them from opting for a competing brand. Some outdoor specialty brands are happy to lose online sales if it means helping authorized local specialty dealers, who they can trust to provide top-tier service and who have played a key role in helping them build their brands.
“Even with Amazon out there providing two-day shipping, Locally.com does it one day better,” noted Herget.
When products are not available locally, sales are sent to online specialists like Moosejaw, RockCreek, Backcountry and up to 75 other specialty ecommerce sites. Ranking is based on proximity to shopper rather than cheapest price or highest bid. Prices are always full retail.
For shops that have no desire to build an extensive website, Locally.com offers a private-label version of the site for less than $100 a month that can be dropped on any empty webpage and be up and running in 5 minutes.
As it gains scale, Locally.com expects to offer more services. It is now running geo-targeted SEM/PPC/Social campaigns in hundreds of cities that last week generated more than 9.7 million brand impressions. All ads are for buying the brand or product locally. It has also captured nearly 100 million data points that will help marketers hone in on where specific products or brands are garnering the most interest.
Sixty percent of the sites traffic is now coming from customers conducting searches using their smartphone, tablets or other mobile devices. Such mobile customers are more inclined than customers who search from desktop computers to walk into a store with 24 hours of a search.
Yahoo and Bing are generating 30 percent of Locally.com’s mobile search traffic and the company has hired an SEO contractor used by yp.com (Yellow Pages) to improve its ranking on Google search pages.
“Over the next year, we will roll out both a ‘chat with store’ solution and a ‘merchandise reservation’ tool (like OpenTable) that will give shoppers the expedience they expect from shopping online. Further out, we’ve got plans for things that shoppers ten years from now won’t be able to imagine living without!” says Massey.