Consumer Behavior is Changing
One of the most inescapable business themes of the past decade is the evolution of consumer shopping behavior. Nearly every business news story about consumers involves the application of new technology to everyday life. Whether it is something as simple as reserving a table for dinner or as complex as renting a vacation home in a foreign currency on the other side of the world, internet-based technologies have raised the bar for what's expected in day-to-day commerce.
Locally was founded by a group of retailers in 2013 to address the gap between what evolving consumers expect and what's needed for local retailers and their suppliers to thrive.
Identifying the Problem for Retailers
When we read stories about how these changes have affected various industries, physical retail is often held up as an example of an industry that has failed to stay current with technology-based solutions. Stores have limited hours, significant physical location costs, a smaller assortments of merchandise, and usually require shoppers to get in a car and come to them. It’s easy to see why pundits would expect physical retail to be toppled by a more modernized shopping paradigm.
Still, these issues are not insurmountable, and physical retail continues to play a major role in shopper behavior (arguably the largest). Stores like Apple and Lululemon that have combined digital and physical retail have absolutely thrived in recent years. It seems that having physical locations near customers is less of a problem than creating digital connections to shoppers.
Locally has served as a natural extension of our business – and aligns perfectly with our goal of delivering an easy, local, and fun bike buying experience to our guests across Florida, blending our physical stores with how many of our guests want to buy items – online.
-Ray Kennedy, David's World Cycle
What's the Problem for Brands?
Most “experts” in shopper behavior have touted the internet revolution as a de facto win for brands, allowing them to move past antiquated wholesale relationships and start marketing and selling their products directly to shoppers. But, after a decade, there are very few examples of brands who have shed their wholesale business relationships and migrated to a direct-to-consumer sales model successfully. There are many more examples of brands who have tried to make the switch and have failed or given up.
channel versus channel.
It seems that turning up the dial on channel conflict (allowing your direct-to-consumer business to directly conflict with your wholesale/retailer partners) has a negative effect on all sales channels. Taking business out of one channel (physical) and moving it to another (direct or marketplace) isn’t a way to grow business as much as a way to shuffle it around. Plus, single-brand direct-to-consumer retail (online or offline) turns out to be very expensive. And, trying to regulate sales through 3rd party marketplace channels can also be quite costly whether done right (expensive policing) or wrong (diminishing brand premium).
On the other hand, physical retail excels at creating brand goodwill and consumer enthusiasm. It's hard to name a single brand that has experienced significant success in recent years who HASN'T employed a wholesale/brick & mortar strategy. But, unsurprisingly, having your products replaced by a competing brand at stores often results in lower brand affinity online too.
How Locally Sees the Omnichannel Shopper
Locally sees omnichannel as an emerging SHOPPER behavior; people like to shop across many channels, not a business architecture that aligns channels against each other and confuse the shared customer.
For our brand and retailer clients, the best marketing practices focus on Consumer Lifetime Value (CLV), shopper enthusiasm, and influence. These long-term goals are prioritized over shorter-term goals like weekly or quarterly sales. And, in this successful paradigm, channel conflict is seen as inherently negative. The end-goal is a life-long, loyal customer who makes repeat purchases and refers other shoppers to your brand or store. Sales success EMERGES from this optimization.
No industry has struggled more to adapt to the “shop online, buy nearby” consumer behavior than cycling. A bike is an expensive item. People do a lot of online research before deciding what to buy. While there is high consumer loyalty and brand affinity, sales still hinge on local service and expertise - both of which are best provided in a brand's network of physical locations. So, keeping the shopper brand-focused across multiple channels is an ultra-high-priority.
Locally allows us to connect our customers to the bike of their dreams, in their own backyard. We are on a mission to change the world, by getting more people on bikes. If we can do that faster by showing somebody the bike they want is down the street, at their locally owned bike shop rather than our warehouse, that’s better for them, it’s better for the bike shop, and it’s better for Trek.
-Eric Bjorling, Director of Brand at TREK Bicycle
Trek had a vision for how this should work long before talking to Locally. They understood fundamentally that a phenomenal online experience coupled with a fantastic in-store experience is the key to growing their business and building life-long relationships with cyclists. They should know; they have a cult-like following among people who love their bikes.
Locally was founded on the exact same premise: consumer-centered shopping solutions are a rising tide that lifts all ships. Smooth connections between channels foster and support loyalty. And, we believe that robust, peer-to-peer shopping networks are inherently better because multiple parties can add value for the consumer. Monolithic, centralized models are walled gardens with low regard for partnerships.
A Comprehensive Solution
Even though Locally has expertise in this particular consumer path to purchase and has been implemented in dozens of countries, for hundreds of brands, and across thousands of retailers, Trek envisioned something even bigger: a truly global, completely unified sales pipeline that connects all stores, sites, cities, and inventory seamlessly.
The goal is a ‘no dead end’ path to purchase. If you’ve shopped with companies like Apple, you’ve surely been exposed to how well they blend online & offline with in-store pickup, same day delivery, and shipped packages. Service and warranty are also unified in this ‘one sales channel’ concept. This is Trek's vision.
Trek and Locally will launch this collaboration at the end of April. While the solution spans virtually everything Locally has to offer in technology (product finders, store locators, endless aisle, ship-to-store, BOPIS, ROPIS, and two-way POS integration), shoppers will simply enjoy a completely seamless path-to-purchase. They won’t be aware that multiple sales channels have been unified or of the heavy data lifting occurring in the background. They'll just be getting a new bike in the way they choose.
To make this solution work even better for retailers, Locally needed to do a deep collaboration with one of the most popular point-of-sale solutions in cycling: Ascend. And, for this project, we built more than just a pipeline for stores to share inventory, we built a full, two-way communication system where inventory on the floor flows up and online purchases flow down.
Ascend is Locally’s launch partner for this new order integration and sales management solution, PushCart. This new tool can push BOPIS and ROPIS sales into sales order management systems including POS, ERP, or even Ecom platforms. The goal of PushCart isn’t to create another proprietary sales channel silo, but rather to enable shoppers to marry the convenience and features they want from online shopping with the service, selection, and expertise they enjoy when shopping in a local shop.
Building Great User Experiences
Years ago, if you wanted to go to the movies, you had to call the movie theatre or get the times from the newspaper (if you had one). Buying a ticket or a seat were impossible to do before you got there, so you had to take your chances waiting in line. Same for restaurants. Hotels. Concerts. Games. Tours. Etc…
Today, you can do all of these things at 2am from your phone. And, this is what consumers demand: shopping how they want, when they want. They want MORE information, not less. More options, not fewer.
But, for the most part, local stores are still stuck in the Yellow Pages era of marketing. They hope that shoppers will just come in to see if the store has what they are looking for, in their size or color. Foot traffic has predictably dwindled.
Most brands (except our clients) do little to facilitate a better online-to-nearby handoff and blindly refer shoppers to physical addresses with no idea whether that referral leads to a sale of their products, whether it's the right kind of store to send a shopper to, or whether that store will sell that customer their products or those of a competing brand. Unsuccessful referrals don’t just lose the sale at hand, they often lose future sales for the store and the brand.
It’s no wonder that massive online retailers like Amazon have been able to capitalize on the enormous gap between how antiquated retail actually is and what shoppers expect from good retailers. And yet, while their 24/7 availability and a huge/discounted selection have gone far to win commodity product sales, they struggles to overcome the last mile logistics and provide the full-service support solutions that come naturally for specialty shops who sell specialty products. Premium brands and products simply perform better in curated, full-service sales channels.
The more channels customers use, the more valuable they are. /A/ retailer’s omnichannel customers are more valuable on multiple counts. They spent more on every shopping occasion in the store and more online than single-channel customers. Even more compelling, with every additional channel they used, the shoppers spent more money in the store.
Supporting Independent Bike Shops
Like we do for retailers in outdoors, run, baby, toy, fishing, automotive, and other industries, Locally provides an easy (and FREE) on-ramp for stores to start displaying current inventory online.
Locally.com excels at helping stores win natural search results. Our array of brand-site tools show almost a million unique shoppers per day where to buy what they are shopping for nearby. Our plug-and-play DIY tools for retailer blogs and Facebook Pages create a free way to add what’s in stock to marketing campaigns. And, our Locally Landing Pages subdomain tools provide both brands and retailers with robust SEO/SEM solutions.
Buy It Locally enables any retailer to take direct payments from shoppers for in-store, curbside, or local delivery transactions. The solution is peer-to-peer and payments flow straight to the retailer. Communication between shopper and shop is robust, ensuring that shoppers have a great experience. We even ensure that sales tax remittance is handled in all 50 states, US territories, and Canada (global coming soon).
And, lastly, we keep track of missed opportunities. What were nearby customers looking for that you don’t stock? We have a custom list by brand and ranked by product views. Our system can only support stores if they have the things shoppers want to buy from them!
Everything about the platform is easy – from setup across our 21 locations to the text/email notices that Locally sends to our teams and guests. Our staff has more time to spend where it really matters: one-on-one with our local guests in the stores.
What Comes Next?
Location & Reputation Management
In conjunction with our partner, DBA Platform, Locally will be offering an extremely robust tool for affordably managing stores’ online presence across various search and social media platforms. As you've come to expect, our solution will be tightly tied to marketing what's in-stock.
Deeper Attribution Insights
A key challenge of connecting online-to-offline marketing tactics to attribution models is gaining access to shopper behavior. This is increasingly complex and some of the biggest companies in the world are working on it. Locally is teaming up with the leading experts on the topic to pursue a deeper understanding of shopper behavior.
New Engagement & Personalization Tools
We’re planning a wide array of new on and off-site tools and integrations for both retailers and brands into 2021 and 2022.
Locally Ad Network
Locally was founded by retailers and continues to be run by retailers for retailers. We understand that digital marketing is absolutely essential for all businesses, but we’re also dismayed by the lack of sophistication of tools available to small and medium-sized retailers seeking to drive foot traffic. We’re assembling a group of industry experts with a mission to leapfrog everything currently in the digital marketing space and offer local stores (and brands) a suite of cost-effective, high-ROI marketing tools.
If you're a retailer and would like to learn more about the services we provide to help you reach local shoppers, visit locally.com/for/retailers. If you'd like to get started today, visit locally.com/go/launch.
If you represent a brand, and would like to learn more about how Locally connects the online marketing efforts for hundreds of brands to local stores for millions of shoppers, visit locally.com/for/brands.
If you are interested in partnering with us and are involved in a trade association, marketing solution, or technology firm, please reach out to our support team.