If you’re a business owner then you will understand the pressure businesses are under to find and develop a good client base; it is the basis on which any business stands or falls. If you’re not a business owner and look at the business premises around you then you may notice the great number of stores that have closed over the past years and haven’t been replaced by new ones; leaving behind boarded up store fronts.
The reality is that the retail industry is transforming at a faster pace than what most small businesses can pivot their business models to keep up with the changing customer demand. Cheaper prices at a faster rate is the expectation, but what if you already satisfy these demands and people still don’t know about your business? What method can a business then use to get their name out to an ever-shrinking client base?
In many instances’ businesses are moving to the ever-expanding online marketplaces to get more exposure, but by doing so they hand over their control and data to these megalithic institutions. It is seen as the price to pay to remain in business. The unanswered question however is, what will happen once these same institutions change the rules of the game in their favour and become the main competition for their own business clients? Their funding is better and their supporting networks far reaching, ensuring better prices with faster delivery enabling them to compete with the biggest brands out there. The impact of such policies is detrimental for any smaller businesses, especially those purely reliant on these marketplaces; now turned competition. Will small businesses be forced out of even these marketplaces?
We believe that the dice are loaded in favour of these marketplaces; they own the user and seller data, manage the payment gateways, control logistics and the pricing for the warehousing and ultimately determines who sees what product on their web portal. There are then also limitations as to the market penetration in the different countries; so whichever platform works in one country may not work in another.
Our Founder and CEO faced this problem when he started a fresh blue berry store in a large office complex.
“Anyone wanting to start a business would jump at the opportunity as it was a captured market with 10,000 people all in one building; the product was in high demand and the price was right. The question I tried to answer was what was needed to get the word out to enough people to make it a viable business without direct marketing; which wasn’t permitted in the building?
Existing online technologies are geared towards a specific user demographic and does require significant direct advertising to build up a level of trust. On the other hand, word of mouth has proven to work more reliably, but the reach is traditionally very limited. What I realized I had to do was to build a marketing and eCommerce solution based on the same trust there exists when a friend or colleague tells you about a product.”
His realization was that most businesses struggle with the same problem and that if they were empowered with a new kind of eCommerce tool then it would enable them to provide their products and services to a wide, yet local audience and give them the much needed market exposure. This could then be further enhanced through access to relevant consumer data so that the demand in the market can be fulfilled rather than having to stock up on items which might or might not be in demand. Such a tool would in turn allow the public to find local products more speedily than going to online retailers.
This is a vast improvement over the existing online retail model as there is currently no efficient way of targeting and supporting local producers and retailers in a specific area. This is relevant as the decrease of brick-and-mortar commerce has picked up momentum and is becoming more visible with the increasing number of store fronts being boarded up.
Blame is often put on the way that big brand eCommerce platforms have shaped the retail industry over the past two decades and the lack of knowledge business owners have to enter the eCommerce market. We believe this to be partially true; retail has changed and the velocity of money has decreased since the 2008 recession. The effect can however be halted and even rolled back if decisive actions are taken before a tipping point is reached and a point of no return crossed.
We live by the motto that wisdom (correctly implemented knowledge) is power. If we can give others the correct knowledge and help them to implement it correctly then they can help themselves. For this purpose, we at Ashrays are driven to find ways of giving business owners the necessary IT tools and data they need to make the correct business decisions and grow their businesses. This is something normally only possible for large corporations who have collected massive amounts of user data; but we are bringing it within the reach of every business.
Our mobile platform will help business owners understand the market demand in their store’s locations and attract more clients to their brick-and-mortar stores while giving them an eCommerce platform so that they can compete on the same level as other big brands.
At the same time we also empower the general public to get more accurate product pricing and availability data from retailers wherever they are on the road. A win-win for both consumers and retailers.