There’s no question that the internet has changed the way people shop, luring people away from stores to shop on their computers.
New Orleans-based startup Locally is working to find a middle ground: helping brick-and-mortar retailers list their products online in an easily searchable platform to help them attract consumers back to nearby stores for their purchases.
It works like this: If you’re searching online for, say, a Patagonia jacket, you could search for it on Google along with a location. Locally would be among the first handful of results to pop up, showing real-time inventory in nearby stores. Or shoppers could head straight to locally.com, which works like a search engine for retail products, and enter what they’re looking for.
Additionally, retailers can list their inventory online through the site, which allows shoppers to search by city and brand, check the local inventory and compare prices before making a purchase online and picking it up in the store.
It’s all about trying to “mimic the shopper’s path,” said Blake Haney, 42, a founder of the company and its creative director.
Retailers also can add a function to their website or social media handle that essentially embeds a Locally function that shows in-stock merchandise.
The company’s backers, who largely have experience in retail sales, want to create a go-to site for shoppers seeking products that are in stock at nearby retailers, meaning they can make their purchase within their community.
The company, which has about a dozen employees, has signed up about 4,000 retailers in more than 800 cities, said President Mike Massey, who also owns Massey’s Outfitters, which has stores in New Orleans and Baton Rouge.
Internet retail giants like Amazon have developed newer and more cost-efficient ways to quickly deliver products, including offering same-day delivery by opening warehouses in some cities. Not to be outdone, Wal-Mart, the country’s largest retailer, is testing using drones to move inventory at its large warehouses.
Locally, meanwhile, was born out of the belief that consumers increasingly want to research and buy products on their phone or tablet but are willing to drive across town to pick it up rather than wait for it to be delivered.
To Massey, 49, the new service bridges a gap between online and offline transactions, like making a dinner reservation on a computer or hailing a ride using a cellphone.
When the company was launched in 2014, “we knew that local retailers were increasingly being cut out of the decision-making process, between Amazon and brands selling direct,” he said.
“Everywhere that a shopper was looking at products — which is like 90 percent of the time online from an iPad in their bedroom — there’s no ability to see whether the products they’re looking at are available at a local store,”…