Locally is an innovative company, adapting and responding to the changing consumer in a technology-based, instant world.
Mark Strella, Business Development Director
What is Locally?
Strella: Locally makes it really easy for a shopper to go from a screen to purchasing a product at a nearby store. We focus on the online to offline type of transaction and the online to offline type of shopper: the individual who is using their computer and their device to learn about a new brand, a new product, or looking for a specific product. We show them where there’s a nearby store with that item, and whatever is in stock at the other nearby stores, so they can go in and complete their purchase. Or if they want, they can actually put it on hold or pay for instore pickup, so that sale is locked in with the store.
We’re currently piloting same day delivery, so stores can shuttle in-stock merchandise to people’s house or office all within an hour or two. Our goal is to bring digital visibility to nearby in-stock merchandise and make it so that shoppers can go and get it or initiate a purchase for in-store pick up or same day delivery in that moment.
Why do you think the online to offline shopping method is most convenient to consumers?
Strella: We obviously have all witnessed the rapid evolution of shopping habits in the last decade, and the trigger behind most of that has been the rise of online ecommerce. The way we see it is, there is more than one type of an ‘online transaction’ beyond a shipped experience. That’s one growing type of online transaction that obviously gets a lot of press. What we’re focused on is the in-store pick up, or to-store referrals, and soon same-day delivery, which is we think are some of the most prominent forms of online transactions that are somewhat underdeveloped by brands and retailers in the sporting goods industry and beyond.
If you take a step back, we can grab our phones and hail a ride in a minute with an app, get food delivered in 30 minutes through an app, rent a table for dinner, or book an Airbnb anywhere in the world. There’s just now this 24/7 access to things that were once only accessible in the analog world. You had to go to or call a restaurant, and you had to stand on the street and wave your hand to hail a cab. We think it’s crazy that this still doesn’t exist for retail, that the vast majority of in-store inventory is virtually invisible to anyone on a device or a computer. This experience does exist in various one-off scenarios. If you go to certain retailer sites, they’ll show you a “find in store” option, or brands that have their own stores will do this. But there’s no universal solution tying it all together, so it’s much more of a fragmented, unpredictable ecosystem. Locally wants to tie together all of the stores’ inventory into one universal experience for shoppers the same way that Airbnb could tie together hundreds of thousands individual property owners with extra space with travelers.
Shoppers can access Locally’s information in a couple of different ways. Right now, we’re the wiring, working to wire up all this inventory on brands like Brooks Running, Solomon and Osprey. These brands use Locally on their own websites, so when someone goes to the Brooks website, they can see where they have a specific shoe in stock near them. These tools get a ton of traction on these sites and churn out local transactions all day long. Retailers also use our tools on their own sites and social media. And then we have our own site, Locally.com. Our goal is maximize the number of locations across the internet where a shopper can engage with this information.
Why is shopping through Locally better than other large online platforms?
Strella: We’re after the shopper who isn’t ready to have something shipped to them for whatever reason, they want to go to a store and have an in-store experience. Sometimes a shopper may just want something right now: they have a trip tomorrow and need a new jacket. They just need to know where to go to find the specific one they want. With Locally, you can be reading about a new running shoe online and be taking it on your first run with it an hour later. That’s a great experience for the shopper, and for the brand and retailer who were able to team up to make that happen.
Another one of the primary reasons to go to a store is obviously to try something on. If you’re going to be camping in the backcountry for three weeks with a product, you want to make sure that you’re trying things on, getting the right fit, talking to pros, and not dealing with shipping or counterfeits or returns. Sunglasses, swim wear, a nice stroller or pair of shoes, skiing or hiking boots, etc. These are all products many prefer to walk into a store to check out in person, rather than roll the dice on a shipped experience. So there are a number of reasons why a shopper would prefer this experience over just clicking ‘add to cart’ and have a box show up on their door.
We’ve been focused on about 15 industry verticals emanating out from the general “sporting goods” space, and are working on countless additional areas where premium brands and retailers sell products that lend themselves to an in-person, in-store experience.
Can you further explain how you’re using omni-channels to connect shoppers, brands and retailers?
Strella: One of the key prongs to our strategy is making Locally available on brand websites. Imagine a big brand, a sporting goods brand. They have their own website, they’re trying to drive their own sales, but a small fraction end up actually purchasing. Yet they’re very effective at driving traffic, as they have teams of professionals with expertise at building really robust digital experiences, and so these brands understand the need to serve the shoppers in the way I’m describing. Shoppers who want that in store experience, want something immediately, etc. And the beauty of Locally is that we provide that shopper experience for the brand, but it’s powered by their retailers. When YETI Coolers or Arc’teryx launches Locally on their site, they are engaging hundreds of their key retailer partners to share inventory, to accept transactions for in-store pick up. In doing so, they’re able to turn this site into this partnership and leverage the unique strengths of the retailers to lock in a sale from that shopper who wasn’t ready to hit add to cart. And vice versa, retailers are able to leverage the brands expertise of having a successful site, a deep understanding of their shoppers, a lot of traffic. So by providing this really novel experience for shoppers we’re also strengthening that brand-retailer relationship.
What do you use to track inventory in so many stores and keep it up-to-date?
Strella: We developed a simple, near-universal way for retailers of nearly any level of technical sophistication to regularly share their inventory with us. We’ve connected with over 25 point of sale systems and most are fully automated daily, hourly, or real-time feeds. Our system digests an astonishing number of UPCs every couple of minutes.
Who are some of your partner organizations?
Strella: We have 4 different types of partnerships. We have our brand partners – brands in about 15 different industry verticals that we work to guide shoppers to their products. We have our retailer partners – we have stores in over 1000 cities in the US, Canada, and beyond. We have organization partners – industry membership groups or buying groups, who we have alignment with in ensuring that these industries and brand/retailer ecosystems continue to thrive. And we have technology partners – other companies like Locally operating in our industries with whom we can create integrations or custom solutions to amplify the effects of our respective products.
Are you operating anywhere outside of the US?
Strella: We currently support the United States and Canada and recently launched retailers in Japan, UK and France. We are growing our European footprint this year with a couple of brands that are launching over the next couple of months.
What inspired you to start Locally?
Strella: Locally was founded by Mike Massey, who is our president and originally a retailer. He owns four outdoor stores in Louisiana and has always been thinking ahead and looking at shopping and consumer trends and how to continually stay ahead and compete. Maybe 5 or so years ago, he realized the inability on the internet of a shopper in New Orleans to see that Patagonia jacket that they’re looking at is in stock at a certain store, was an existential problem. He thought brands and retailers really needed to band together and serve that shopper in a way that keeps traffic coming to stores and therefore enables brands to be able to continue partner with a diversified retailer network to provide a really high service experience for a shopper. Compare that to the alternative where a single ecommerce retailer could dominate distribution for brands. Everyone knows there’s only one winner in that version of the future.
I joined the team because honestly I’m tall and impatient and was tired of brands shipping me stuff that didn’t fit or looked different than the picture, dealing with the post office, etc. and always wished they could just tell me where to go in-town to buy what I was looking for. I knew I wasn’t alone and that a ton of people would love to use a service like this.
Where do you see Locally in the next 5 years?
Strella: We’ll continue to grow the reach of our platform to cover all potential products, brands and stores shoppers are looking for. We’re not interested in doing Locally for something like toilet paper, we’re only focused on higher end brands who value high quality local distribution networks. If this describes your brand, store, or industry, definitely reach out to us.
In general, there’s huge potential for future apps and products that would allow what we think are millions of Americans out there and beyond who would love to go to a destination to find brands and products in stock in their city. Ultimately that means being a shopper-facing entity in our own right.
When do you think same day delivery will be implemented?
Strella: It’s in beta right now in Orlando. We’re rolling it out this spring and summer in about 40 cities across the US with our delivery partner deliv.co. We can’t wait.