Consumers are increasingly shopping online and on their mobile phones, drawn by the ease of locating things they want to buy and cheap or free fast delivery from major e-commerce sites like Amazon. But for most brick-and-mortar stores, the shopping experience hasn’t really changed.
That’s why the new app Downtown was launched, to provide a way for local small businesses and chain locations to participate in mobile commerce. By doing so, they’ll be able to sell and deliver items to nearby residents even faster than the big e-commerce chains.
The app, which went live for Palo Alto residents this week, will allow customers to shop from a curated list of goods at local retailers. That includes big national chains like the Apple Store, as well as smaller boutique shops like Alegio Chocolate.
Customers can select any of the items listed at those stores and have the goods delivered for free or pick them up from the store the same day. For customers who like to shop in downtown stores but don’t want to carry things home with them, the Downtown app also provides a way for consumers to purchase items and have them delivered when they return home.
While Downtown has partnered with more than 35 local shops for its launch in Palo Alto, the app aims to ensure that it never feels cluttered by the number of choices available at any one time. So the team has curated goods from various different shops, showing about 10 to 15 shops at a time and up to 10 items at each retailer. It rotates those shops based on popularity and time of day.
For consumers, ordering an item takes just two taps on their mobile device once their payment information is entered. And delivery is on-demand and free.
For partners, Downtown has also created an app that allows store owners to update their inventory and set pricing. The goal is to make pricing the same for consumers whether they’re purchasing in-store or having something delivered via the app.
In that way, the team is seeking to build a sort of “Amazon for local businesses,” and allowing them to easily get into the business of selling to local consumers but through their mobile phones.
According to co-founder Phillip Buckendorf, the plan is to learn from its limited launch in Palo Alto before expanding into other markets.
“Once we understand the product market fit, we want to move into more urban cities,” he said. “You’ll see us expanding very fast.”