Teara McGinn is co-founder of browseYYC.
Calgary’s Business: What is browseYYC and how does it work?
McGinn: browseYYC is a ‘shop local, online’ marketplace. It’s a website where people can experience the convenience of online shopping with the feel-good value of supporting local businesses. By allowing all types of sellers (retailers, artisans, etc) across the city to have storefronts within the marketplace, we can ensure customers find what they are looking for right in Calgary – and find stuff they weren’t looking for, too.
CB: How did the idea come about to set this up?
McGinn: My co-founder Heather Wiebe and I both love the idea of supporting local sellers with our shopping, but have always found it inconvenient.
Say you’re looking for a black dress. Google search results mostly bring up the big online sellers, not local shops. Even if local shops are returned in search results, you likely don’t know if they have exactly what you’re looking for in terms of style, size and budget. Setting aside time to go and browse shops in person when they might not even have what you’re looking for, it’s a difficult thing to do when online sellers are waiting for you right on your smartphone or computer, any time of day that works for you.
We talked to many others who feel the same way and the idea was born. What if there was one website for Calgary, showcasing merchandise of sellers all across the city? An Amazon, just for local businesses.
CB: How is this beneficial for retailers?
McGinn: browseYYC is beneficial for retailers because frankly, they can be stronger together.
Brick and mortar retailers find it expensive and time-consuming to add e-commerce to their business. First you have to get the website built and loaded with product, but just building it is not enough for customers to find it. Next it must be marketed. Marketing one website in a sea of sharks is expensive.
Each brick and mortar store is taking this on individually and in some cases the costs and workload is crippling them, rather than adding to their bottom line.
By setting up a storefront on browseYYC, the upfront cost is removed – a storefront only costs $29 a month. We will take care of heavily marketing browseYYC, ensuring a flow of customers. We offer a wide variety of integrations, making inventory upload easier.
If the retailer is already using a point of sale system, we may be able to integrate with it; if they’re on Shopify, we offer a sync app to open up a new sales channel, likewise if they’re an artisan selling on Etsy.
We take care of all the marketing, and all the technology maintenance, freeing up sellers to focus on what they know best – their customer and their products.
We take no commission on sales, thus we can provide customers with seller contact information and vice versa, allowing sellers to continue to nourish customer relationships directly.
CB: How is this beneficial for consumers?
McGinn: Consumers love convenience. But they also appreciate knowing that their dollar is going to a good place. When a consumer supports a local business, their money stays within the community – providing jobs, providing tax dollars, providing a vibrant retail landscape. browseYYC offers consumers both convenience and local support all within one platform.
In addition, we commit to sharing 10 per cent of our profits with local charities, ensuring this business model enriches communities even further.
CB: What’s your feel of where the retail industry is heading?
McGinn: Like all industries, the retail landscape is being forced to change. Different generations of consumers prioritize different things. New waves of technology solve some problems and create others.
Most retailers we talk to express that they’re struggling to get by, and yet they all continue to fight against the big box stores and the big online giants individually. We see the results of fighting large opponents as small individual businesses in retail closures on a regular basis.
To win the battle, retailers must start to fight it differently than they ever have before – by joining together. We call browseYYC a new school of thought.
Look out Amazon, here we come – we need retailers and sellers across the city to join us.
– Mario Toneguzzi