5 Platforms Local Retailers Can Use to Connect With Online Shoppers

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local1Local retailers can’t prevent consumers from shopping online, but there are things they can do to encourage shoppers to complete their transactions inside brick-and-mortar stores. In a survey by Accenture, 89% of respondents said they wished retailers would let them “shop for products in the way that is more convenient for them,” regardless of whether that’s in-person, online, or using a mobile device. In order for that to happen, it’s up to local merchants themselves to make the investment.

Rather than creating their own e-commerce websites (which can take both time and money) merchants with physical outposts are increasingly relying on hyperlocal solutions as a way to connect with consumers who prefer shopping online. These platforms give retailers a way to put their products in front of local shoppers, without actually requiring them to set up an online store or negotiate the logistics of shipping and delivery. Here are five platforms that merchants can use to get the job done.

1. walkby: Respond to customer desires in real-time.
Not every local retailer has the financial resources to develop a standalone e-commerce website. Instead, merchants who don’t have their own e-commerce sites can post individual photos of their available products on walkby’s mobile app, as well as on their social media pages. Consumers who search for specific items using walkby’s mobile app can sign up to receive push notifications when local retailers have their desired products in stock. Users can also “follow” their favorite stores to find out when new products are available. Merchants can join the walkby network for free.

2. Retailigence: Give publishers access to product availability information.
Retailigence is a tool that retailers can use to publish their product selection and availability on multiple mobile apps, as a way to get noticed by shoppers using their smartphones and tablets. Consumers who run local searches on their mobile devices can get store-specific product data, letting them know where they can go to purchase the specific products they want right away. Retailigence gathers this information by integrating with a merchant’s POS system, and tracking inventory levels in real-time. Retailigence charges a “small monthly fee” to retailers for data management and distribution.

3. ShopSavvy: Reach mobile users when they’re deciding where to buy.
ShopSavvy offers self-serve tools that merchants of all sizes can use to get their product inventory, pricing data, and location information added to ShopSavvy’s mobile marketplace. Retailers can upload their inventory data in 14 different ways, depending on how it’s stored within their own systems. This gives local businesses a way to get their products in front of consumers who are searching for items by keyword using ShopSavvy’s mobile app. Merchants can upload their product availability data to ShopSavvy for free.

4. Milo: Let online shoppers know what you have in stock.
Acquired by eBay in 2010, Milo is an inventory search platform that helps local retailers reach online audiences. Merchants with brick-and-mortar stores share their product inventory data with Milo using Fetch, the company’s free software. Fetch syncs with the retailer’s POS system, and uploads inventory information into Milo’s local search platform in real-time. Local consumers who search for specific items (like skateboards, umbrellas, or iPads, for example) are shown a list of nearby businesses that have the product they’re looking for in stock. Milo’s Fetch software is free for small and medium-size retailers.

5. Villij: Build a virtual showroom for online consumers.
Villij is a platform for retailers that want to connect with local shoppers and build brand awareness. Consumers ask questions of the Villij community (like, “What’s the best first-date restaurant in Brooklyn”), and the answers they receive from individual users or local businesspeople are posted for the entire Villij community to see. Retailers that answer specific customer queries through Villij can reach a much broader audience than when they communicate directly via email, and they can include specific links to their own products as a way to create a “virtual showroom” for future Villij users to discover. Villij is currently offering a limited number of six-month free trials to businesses.

Know of other tools local retailers can use to reach online shoppers? Leave a description in the comments.

Stephanie Miles is an associate editor at Street Fight.

Stephanie Miles is a journalist who covers personal finance, technology, and real estate. As Street Fight’s senior editor, she is particularly interested in how local merchants and national brands are utilizing hyperlocal technology to reach consumers. She has written for FHM, the Daily News, Working World, Gawker, Cityfile, and Recessionwire.