New Plymouth-based web developer Shay Starrenburg was inspired to start Shop Small by a Facebook meme encouraging her friends to support one anothers’ businesses. Her community’s genuine, encouraging responses touched Starrenburg deeply, and she realised she had the skills to create a platform which facilitated these connections.
“It’s so great when you see businesses empower each other rather than focus so hard on competing. “
For a fixed cost per month comparable to the price of a market stall, retailers are presented as part of an online community. We asked Starrenburg for more detail about how Shop Small will work when it launches next month.
Tell us about what you hope to do for local online stores with Shop Small.
I have to confess, I have an online shopping addiction, but I have always found it frustrating that shopping locally online is so hard. Being a web developer, I know the internet a lot better than the average person and even I spend hours (and hours) trying to find great local shops in Google. You're always hit with pages from huge chain stores, as these guys have the money to spend on some serious digital marketing.
I’m really passionate about supporting local so the reason I have started Shop Small is to put all these amazing hidden websites in one place so you can actually find them. You’re always hearing that online shopping is rapidly increasing every year – let’s help keep more of that in New Zealand.
Tell us how the site will work.
I tried explaining this to my Nana the other day and the best way I could get her to understand is we’re kind of like a virtual mall of New Zealand-owned shops – [you’re] looking into the shop windows and deciding which ones you want to go into.
It doesn’t get much better than shopping in your trackies, bra-free, slouched on the couch whilst sipping a good wine.
We’re about promoting everyone’s ecommerce websites rather than have them upload their products with us. We’re a visual directory so unlike Google, where you have a line of text deciding if you want to click through, we’re showcasing images so you get the feel of the business and their style straight away. You can also ‘favourite’ shops you love while browsing and come back to [them] again and again.
We also have a subscription area to the website where shoppers can sign up to get promotions from our local stores via email, based on the categories they are interested in. I love a good sale - put something in a red font and I’m yours!
Our Instagram is a big collection of our members and their products - this is embedded into our website so you can shop straight from the feed to our members ecommerce stores to buy the products direct.
The other part is the members area where shop owners can chat with each other in a forum used for trading tips, forming collabs and making friends. Collabs are really on trend and such a great way to market. Say you sell socks and I sell shoes - it’s likely that our different pools of customer following like both socks and shoes, so let’s help promote each other and both reap the benefit.
The profiles of retailers are interesting. What made you want to implement this idea?
Why do you want to shop local? You want to support New Zealand and you want to support real people. We want shoppers to meet the amazing entrepreneurs or crafters behind the businesses. When you shop local you’re supporting things like kids’ swimming lessons and family outings and I want people to see that. Shop Small is all about having a real community feel. I have already had a taste of this community since I’ve started approaching businesses a couple of weeks ago - everyone is so friendly and supportive!
Is it New Zealand-wide or are you targeting a particular area?
[It’s] New Zealand wide but if you want to actually go 'out and about shopping' we have filters available so you can see which of our members also have brick and mortar stores based on your location. This is especially good if you’re going away for a weekend and want to find those quirky hidden shops that can’t necessary afford the big rent prices in the middle of town/shopping malls.
Is there anything you think more SME retailers should understand about ecommerce?
It’s the way of the future!