For all the hype around ecommerce, most sales still happen at brick-and-mortar stores. Lots of startups are trying to bridge the gap between offline and online selling – and there are hundreds of different approaches to this challenge. Hong Kong-based Popmap is tackling this by persuading small stores to list their products in the app, allowing shoppers to browse the items online – and even buy them online direct from the store.
“We do the window shopping for you,” says Idris Sersoub, the co-founder and CEO of Popmap. The startup wants to get onboard shops that have no website, as well as merchants who don’t even have a physical store. He explains that it’s a way for people to do “last-minute shopping” online while actually sourcing them from nearby shops. The compact nature of Hong Kong means that Popmap’s third-party couriers could deliver within an hour to some locations.
Shoppers can instead opt to pop round to pick up an item. Sersoub says that online discounts persuade consumers to go through with the purchase within Popmap, rather than offline.
The concept for this approach to ecommerce started back in London when Sersoub wanted to buy some earrings for his girlfriend but couldn’t find a store nearby that had any. Sersoub, who hails from Lyon in France, says he “decided to go into local commerce” after that experience, seeing an opportunity for this in many large cities that are packed with interesting indie shops.
Venturing to Shanghai, Singapore
The Popmap app debuted on iOS a few weeks ago, with an Android version and a website in the works. They’ll launch at the end of the month. After that, the startup will take the concept to other cities. In Asia they’re looking into Shanghai and Singapore, and in Europe they’re eyeing London and Berlin. Sersoub (pictured below) says they set up shop in Hong Kong because “Asia is booming way more than Europe or the US” right now.
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While Popmap is free for stores and merchants to use, there’s a transaction fee levied on every purchase which ranges from eight to 15 percent. Some of that fee is given back to shoppers in the form of a discount to encourage them to buy online. The fee varies between stores, but Sersoub insists it’s usually about eight percent for pricer purchases.
While fashion items and jewelry are the most popular items on Popmap, it also includes food.
Hong Kong has a number of homegrown fashion-related ecommerce stores as well as larger players like Zalora. While they operate much more conventionally than Popmap and perhaps can’t deliver to shoppers as quickly, they’re still very strong rivals to this brand-new app.
Moving away from events
Popmap’s path to its recent launch is actually more convoluted than it seems. The startup launched it initially as an events discovery tool earlier last year. Sersoub explains the team found it hard to break into the events industry, keep listings up to date, and persuade people to create quality content. “And it’s difficult to monetize,” he adds.
The team then pivoted to focus on ecommerce. It took the startup four to five months to rebuild Popmap for shopping. Popmap’s inventory system allows stores to sync their stock with Popmap’s listings, if the merchants have that system in place. If not, store owners can update their items manually within Popmap.