Saw a paper pamphlet stapled on a tree of a venture-backed restaurant franchise selling its raw inventory. Then we started to see how bad and broken the system is for businesses all over trying to sell other products outside the "ready to made" order meals with your traditional mobile delivery services.
What it does
No aggregator in place to sell inventory and products from a collection of local businesses. Customers are buying from separate sources, delivery services are focused selling items from a single retailer at a time, and businesses are selling whatever they can to sustain revenue. We want to COMBINE items from these separate sources into ONE. We plan to utilize our own couriers, at least for the beta, and pick-up and deliver to customers focused ALL within a 3-5 mile radius from the city center so that we avoid pick-ups from different areas of city that might cause latency and poor customer service.
How we built it
We designed a prototype with Sketch and Invisi to wire-frame the user experience. From there, we started to understand what possible white-label marketplace APIs are out there to build out a feasible solution. To actually product test, we used ShareTribe to build out the very basic prototype. There are limitations with the non-custom version, without dev work, but the capability is there to at least start consolidating local businesses to input their inventory while customers accessing a centralized market with sales capabilities. On the back-end, businesses have access to POS capabilities receiving sales via Stripe and Paypal.
Challenges we ran into
We ran into several challenges during this project. Starting with narrowing down the target markets that we wanted to pursue. Our product is a marketplace meaning that we have to 2 main customers: vendors and consumers. Trying to determine the needs for both sides was a learning experience but we were able to narrow it down to our desired targets. This effort is to help the whole small and medium sized business ecosystem focused on selling products -- and not just focused on restaurants. Think of local farmers, production, bodegas, liquor stores, specialty shops, game shops, etc. Just a note that restaurants do not have problems with excess inventory, however, they are trying to sell additional products outside from "ready-to-made" meals to sustain revenue. We want to encourage restaurants to make pre-meals and possibly curate raw ingredients to drive revenue during this crisis. Hopefully, post COVID, if our platform is sticky enough possibly drive "incremental" revenue for restaurants. This is still an on-going process as we are still testing and gathering information, but are confident that we are on the right track.
For the customers, we simply want them have a new option to shop for unique and elevated items outside the traditional grocery stores and e-commerce. Our vision will be clear that they will be helping the small and medium businesses.
Further, we do acknowledge the complexity with the fulfillment and delivery piece; we want to start focusing on a 3-5 mile radius from a city center (think of Arts District, Little Tokyo, Echo Park and Silverlake) as our main beta target. We will have designated Local "ambassador" couriers who will establish trust and strong relationships with our partners and local residents so that we ensure quality control; further, we want our "ambassador" couriers to know the landscape so well that pick-up/delivery shouldn't be an issue. We won't utilize Grubhub or Postmates due to high commission rates and possible careless deliveries. Further, we will focus on "bulk" orders to mitigate high frequency from picking-up to dropping off to customers. As we scale, we will continue to develop new hypothesis tackling the issue.
Accomplishments that we're proud of
Frankly our accomplishments were finding solutions to and working through the challenges mentioned above. These include narrowing down our target market, mocking up our MVP product, and creating an initial business plan and go-to-market strategy. As much research and interviews, we've realized how fragmented and broken the system is when businesses are trying to sell items outside from mobile delivery' capability. Finally we would have to add that condensing our pitch and demo of our product into a two minute video was an accomplishment as well!
What we learned
Throughout our discovery, there are limitation with the existing basic, non-custom ShareTribe (the whitelabel marketplace API). We found that the best place to start is to bundle inventory with curated kits and start testing POS and fulfillment, before pursuing our vision in our demo. We want to eliminate as much friction with giving people TOO many options in the user experience so that we generate a high yield in the check-out. For our vendors, we want them to make as much revenue as possible. With that said, our team discovered that vendor/businesses want to sell large orders at once while customers want options. So this is an interesting problem for us to solve and feel that we could if come-up with a unique UX/UI experience to make this happen.
What's next for Local - Online Farmers' Market
We tested multiple solutions, decided to go with the upgrade version of ShareTribe as our main MVP that requires light dev work to custom build a marketplace to manage POS/inventory and grocery-type marketplace. Our consultation and road-map came out to be $10K with a 2-3 month agile build period before launch. Additional cost may include legal licenses/permits, digital marketing, and possibly on-boarding an additional courier if sales grow. As of now, our entire team is committed to do the delivery ourselves to test. In tangent, we will on board businesses and market to customers. So far we have multiple conversations with small businesses in East LA who are interested in our product but want to demo before on-boarding. We have an advisor (as once a famous/trendy restaurant owner who moved in restaurant tech with Yelp and ChowNow) who will help Local to on board partnerships with businesses and wholesale vendors who may have inventory to sell. Further, we plan to work with the City of LA where we can leverage a campaign. More importantly, we want to figure out the best growth-hack strategy for both businesses and customers.
Try It out
invis, sharetribe, sketch