While the advent of smartphones and GPS promises a future of highly targeted local commerce, there have been few breakthroughs in the area, outside of some local deals and loyalty programs based on user checkins. And most of those have been based around bars and restaurants and other service-based industries. Few are focused on helping local shop owners sell more apparel or jewelry. ShopNear.me is trying to change that, with the launch of a mobile app designed to connect users with local boutiques and independent designers.
The idea behind ShopNear.me is simple: Rather than going to big box retailers or shopping for goods online, it gives users an easy way to buy from boutiques and independent designers that are sold locally. By aggregating multiple small shops and brands, it provides a huge variety of goods that they might not have found otherwise.
But the pitch might be even better for local merchants and designers themselves, who generally don’t have the resources to roll out a web presence, set up an online store, or put out their own mobile app. Even if they did, good luck getting users to actually find any of those options in an incredibly fragmented market for fashion and commerce.
ShopNear.me not only provides them a platform to quickly make their inventory available both online and on mobile devices to local buyers, but in aggregating shops, it also gets their goods in front of users who might not have found them otherwise.
With an easy-to-use dashboard, sellers can add or delete inventory from the stores as it becomes available or is sold. It integrates with Facebook as well, so that anytime new products are added, they automatically get added to the merchant or designer’s Facebook page with a link to purchase through ShopNear.me.
Users browsing the app will be able to purchase goods directly and will have the choice to pick products up from the storefront or have them shipped to a local address. ShopNear.me takes a commission for all sales that happen through its platform.
Being local is important, as ShopNear.me founder Yuan Zhang wants to help independent shops and designers to grow their business with buyers. As a result, ShopNear.me is only available in San Francisco today. It has about 40 different shops and independent designers signed up and a lot more on the way, thanks to a recent partnership with local non-profit SFMade. As a result, Zhang expects to have products from more than 100 local merchants available through its website and app by the end of the year.
That said, ShopNear.me is looking to expand into other major metropolitan markets, with some of the obvious ones up first: New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Austin, etc. It’s looking to onboard merchants in other cities soon, and is looking to eventually create a self-serve platform that will allow independents to post their goods without any hand-holding.
It’s also looking beyond fashion and accessories at other verticals that it can make the platform available to. That includes stuff like Home and Kids items. In the meantime, though, it’s just trying to get the local San Francisco experience right.