N.O. Tech Startup Connects Online Shoppers With Local Inventory

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NEW ORLEANS – New Orleans-based tech company Locally, which helps online shoppers find local inventory, is growing more international by the day.

Formed in 2014 by Mike Massey, Blake Haney (founder of Dirty Coast) and Ben Hirsch, the startup began with no employees and a handful of partner brands and retailers. Now, it has more than 20 team members scattered across the country and more than 400 global brand partners, including outdoor apparel company Patagonia; footwear and clothing brands New Balance and Sperry; and premium gear companies like Yeti and Sonos. Trek Bikes just signed on as a partner and footwear behemoth Crocs is coming online next.

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L to R: Mike Massey, Blake Haney and Ben Hirsch

Brand partners pay Locally a monthly fee in exchange for services that help shoppers research a purchase online and then find products in a store near them. The company also earns a small percentage of each online sale it facilitates. Locally’s team works with roughly 10,000 global retailers to capture their inventory data and uses search engine optimization and e-commerce tactics to guide shoppers toward local pickup and delivery rather than having an item shipped.

The whole process is designed to take advantage of changing consumer behaviors, including something called BOPIS, which is an industry acronym for “buy online, pick up in-store.”

“Product research went from in store to online with the Amazon era,” said Massey, a third-generation owner of Massey’s Outfitters who has been working on this tech startup for the last seven years from his second-floor office above the Massey’s location on Carrollton Avenue in Mid-City. “Consumers are doing more product research on brand websites, search engines and social media,” he said. “But this type of engagement was completely disconnected from inventory that’s down the street. Unlike restaurants, movie theaters or big box retailers, you couldn’t look online to see what’s at local stores. Locally set out to fix that seven years ago and make local inventory visible.”

Massey, Haney and Hirsch initially raised an amount in the low six figures from a combination of local and national investors. One of the first big expenses was buying the domain “Locally.com” for about $100,000. For the next four years, the trio spent its time “bushwhacking,” as Massey puts it, to cut through obstacles and clear a path for the venture to move forward. 

“The very first thing that we did after coming out of the gate was launch a website with local inventory on it,” he said. “We strongly believed that Google had a vested interest in local search and that they would highly index all those pages, but it took a couple of years before we were really successful. Now, in most cities, for the brands and the types of products we sell, if you search ‘near me’ or by the city’s name, we usually win the top results for that. We’ve got 10,000 stores on our platform, and we’re feeding all their information to Google via natural search results. We also have a part of our platform that feeds the data into the paid parts of Google. So if you’re a retailer, and you want to promote your local inventory to local shoppers via advertising, we can do that, too.”

In 2018, Locally received a second round of investment in the low seven figures that helped fuel a period of major technology expansion. At this time, the company upgraded its software so it could process transactions online instead of just sending customers to stores to make a purchase. 

“The first year, I think we probably got ten people a day coming to our website, because we weren’t well indexed,” said Massey. “But now I think we get about 500,000 people a day. … Over the last five years, consumers have learned that you can find inventory at your local Best Buy or Home Depot by going to their websites. Or you can go to Google and look for whatever garden hose is in New Orleans and you’ll find inventory at Lowe’s and Home Depot. We take that online-to-nearby shopping behavior and we present it in natural search results, paid search results, on major brand sites, and on over a thousand retailer sites that we power.”

Massey said giving online shoppers the choices of nearby pickup and same-day delivery “is a real loyalty builder.” This is important because many global brands are now focusing on the shopper’s lifetime experience – rather than one sale. “Anyone who has shopped on Apple.com understands that their goal is to get products in your hands in a way that is most convenient for you,” he said.

After seeing record growth during the pandemic, Massey is bullish about the future.

“We’re really excited about the deal with Trek – and Crocs is one of the hottest brands in the market right now,” he said. “We’ve been tapped to enable BOPIS for all 300 of their locations. Our goal is to be the best known company in the world for this particular user behavior. We want to be the OpenTable or Ticketmaster for that type of experience. We feel we’ve got a real head start on everybody.

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