Hyperlocal Shopping App SellSwipe Looks to Modernize Retail Markets
A few years back when entrepreneur David Facey was preparing for a date in New York City, he opened up his smartphone and searched for a flower shop in the neighborhood. Google told him the nearest shop was 10 blocks away and closing in 10 minutes. As soon as he stepped outside, however, his eyes told him there was a florist directly across the street.
That disconnect set off a brainstorm that would ultimately lead to the formation of SellSwipe, Facey’s Baton Rouge-based social shopping app set to launch next year. The mobile app lets consumers find items for sale from people and businesses in their community, and also post their own items for sale.
Users can follow the purchases of friends and family and get recommendations on businesses and deals. The app also aims to give local businesses powerful engagement and analytics tools previously only available to large retailers.
Facey says that despite widespread consumer adoption of smartphones and online shopping, roughly three-quarters of local businesses still aren’t using e-commerce. “Think about all of the sales and potential customers they’re missing out on a daily basis,” he says. “It’s 2017, what’s the problem? It’s money and time. Small businesses just don’t have the resources they need to build an effective online presence.”
He says that even if small businesses are able to break through the online noise and capture a slice of consumer attention, they still often struggle to turn that attention into sales. They also have a hard time converting single purchases into repeat customers, and with collecting and analyzing customer data to drive better marketing decisions.
SellSwipe, which is based in the Louisiana Technology Park and took the top prize at the recent Baton Rouge Pitch Night, plans to tackle each of those pain points while simultaneously creating a more engaging and convenient shopping experience for consumers.
A Chicago native, Facey moved to Baton Rouge when he was 10. After graduating in finance from LSU, he moved back to the Windy City to work for a hedge fund, where he developed an interest in the power of data and analytics to illuminate complex operations in the real world. A later jump into management consulting sent him to New York, where he worked for several years before deciding to pursue his startup.
Facey comes to the world of technology entrepreneurship with a strong background and deep interest in data analytics but little experience in computer programming, which meant he initially faced a steep learning curve. “I’ve had to read so many white papers on technology to get up to speed,” he says. “I have friends who are in tech so I’m constantly asking questions.”
In his Pitch Night presentation, Facey described his product as a social network that creates a marketplace based on product discovery, influencer marketing and recommendations. Users can find nearby businesses to see what items they have for sale and discover any deals they may offer. They can save products to review later, message the business with questions or recommend products to friends.
Facey said the platform combines the convenience of online shopping, the peace of mind of in-store shopping and the connectivity of social media for a unique experience. He says other apps offer one or two elements available through SellSwipe, but none fully integrate all of the features into a single product.
“There were things like this that already existed, but the more we dug into it the more we realized they were not servicing local businesses, nor were they really taking advantage of the power of social media,” he says. “When you get into these platforms, it’s completely isolated — there’s no interaction with other humans. As shopping evolves and it’s more experiential, they’re completely missing out. So the goal with SellSwipe was to make it a more immersive experience with the business, but also with your network.”
Harnessing the Power of Data
For businesses, the platform offers product insights and analytics for retailers to leverage, including word clouds based on search terms for products and heat maps of purchase habits. Facey said that data gives small businesses power previously only available to large retailers, such as the ability to identify trends and consumer demand based on geography.
“All of these features help level the playing field for 3 million small retailers across the country,” he says. “SellSwipe helps drive quick traffic into these businesses so they can create meaningful relationships with customers and turn their biggest supporters into their biggest advocates. We want to build a platform with the business owner in mind.”
App to Launch in 2018
The app is in the final stages of development and has some 400 businesses pre-registered. Those businesses are testing the app and will have items ready for purchase once the platform is released to the public through a targeted rollout in Baton Rouge and Austin, Texas.
Facey says the company originally planned to launch last year but feedback from business users prompted more comprehensive changes than previously expected. On the consumer side, it has worked with college students to get feedback on the user interface and other aspects of the application.
Facey says he hopes to launch the app by mid-2018. He says this deliberate approach will give the company time to fine-tune the product and ultimately encourage merchants to push the app to their customers because they see the value in a high-quality relationship management tool for customers. “We believe that the business owners will help articulate that value to the consumers, then the consumers will tell their friends about it,” he says.