E-Collaboration Among Indies Aims to Fight Big Chains
For independent retailers without the means to conduct e-commerce competitively, being able to offer seamless online shopping and delivery could be deemed Utopian. But self-described growth and innovation consultants, Inzenka, have teamed with Unilever, supply chain consultants Sequoia, brand management and packaging consultancy Pi Global and eziserv technology suppliers to test just such a facility in the small English town of Hereford prior to a nationwide rollout.
While normally working with large blue chip corporates, London and New York-based Inzenka were asked to be part of the OpenHighStreet project in order to create "a new differentiated venture into the market based on validated unmet consumer and retailer needs."
OpenHighStreet lets consumers browse multiple indie retailers online, comparing prices, examining products with a webcam, and discussing them using webchat. A single payment is taken for all purchases and a single delivery or collection organized. As soon as products go into the shopping cart, a message shows the next available delivery time. For collections, a local center will offer a choice of time slots.
The Daily Telegraph described a "virtual high street" charging flat commissions to businesses that can’t afford to run their own websites. Funding comes from the government’s technology strategy board plus private sector backers such as Unilever.
Inzenka’s Aby Handler told RetailWire the proposition’s highlights are offering consumers quality, trust and the personal touch from the comfort of their home as well as "an aggregated delivery at a convenient time for a flat fee." Local independent businesses gain "the platform to grow and compete with the large retailers."
He added, "Initially our focus is purely the U.K. but once we fully develop the innovative informed logistics infrastructure with the right partnerships and franchisee models/network, there will be benefits to expand this beyond U.K. to the E.U. and U.S. This might be fast-tracked if we see increased franchisee and partnership demands from abroad."
Facebook and Twitter will be used to solicit comments and suggestions from both shoppers and retailers prior to national rollout.
Does aggregating local independent shops in a single e-commerce site hold potential in the U.S.? How would such as program work ideally in the U.S.? Does it offer a competitive solution against bigger online players?