As the stagnant Corona Virus pandemic continues to loom over small businesses, retailers like Amazon are capitalizing on their digital sales. While many companies/people have tried to combat the mega company, most have fallen short in their chase. April Underwood, Nearby’s founder, has taken it upon herself to create a new online platform, ‘Nearby’, to help small businesses compete with Amazon.
‘Nearby’ is an online marketplace that provides marketing, orders, fulfillment, and shipping for local businesses’ products to their communities. The beginnings of ‘Nearby’ started with a website called “Keep Oakland Alive” (Oakland, CA is where April resides). This website initially featured 40 small businesses in the local community. The platform has its eyes focused on expanding nationally, starting with Austin, TX and Charleston, SC.
With more than 160,000 businesses closing their doors since the pandemic began, many businesses have been trying to move to e-commerce. Businesses making this adjustment to having digitalized inventory systems has opened them up to the possibility of having a “buy local” option, which was missing in the past in e-commerce. There is a 5% surcharge to each order to serve as a way to cover the credit card expenses, sales taxes, and delivery fees. These services would not be regularly available to small businesses due to the high cost for them on an individual basis.
Mrs. Underwood took her experience from leading product designs at tech companies like Twitter and Slack to develop this platform from nothing. “There is no website or app you can go to buy things from the shops in your local hometown and get them delivered to your doorstep just like you might from Amazon, or some big e-commerce player. And that is what we are building,” said Underwood.
Nationally, the public has been wanting to stray away from potential virus exposure, typically by visiting just one or two stores to do most of their shopping. Neil Saunders, managing Director of GlobalData’s retail division said, “… as there has been a resurgence in customers wanting to shop local – which suggests that smaller stores could do better once the virus is under control and things start to normalize, …” Underwood is betting on that “shop local” trend, and it seems as though she may be on to something.
April Underwood is bringing an emphasis back to supporting local businesses rather than buying from the large e-commerce brands. This type of push on a large scale could be the opposing force needed to combat the small businesses being lost to CORONA VIRUS.