One of the key aspects of a great international trip is the local experience that the traveler gets to experience.
It also gives the local businesses in a country to share their unique products with an international clientele.
However, most local companies face a lot of challenges in reaching out to these tourists (and vice versa) due to cultural differences and lack of adequate technological help.
We spoke with Salvatore Vacante, the CEO and Founder of ShoppiApp — a marketplace to connect local companies with travelers by overcoming existing cultural barriers.
1. What is the story behind ShoppiApp?
I am a traveler and when I visit a new place I love to hear more about the local culture and things to do and buy.
My cofounders and I had a shared interest in the eCommerce industry. We realized that the world was entering a new era where there is an overload of information online.
Most people often end up ordering from Amazon because they don’t know about the local companies around them. The online tools offering that kind of information are too time-consuming and cumbersome to use.
I have visited 13 countries so far and I have never found a solution that allows me to explore the local nature of the city. There was an opportunity to create a tool that shared information about the city and your interests.
Shoppi was launched in early 2017 with an inflatable unicorn as a mascot that traveled the world by taking pictures from enthusiastic people. We attended the most popular startup and touristic events in the world.
Meanwhile, the concept of Shoppi started gaining traction and we built a product that was based on the feedback received.
Shoppi was built with the vision to help communities reconnect with the basics of their economy and build something more valuable without losing the advantages that the globalization era has to offer.
2. Who is the ideal customer of Shoppiapp?
Our ideal customers are local businesses that claim to have a strong connection with the city where they belong. For instance, locally made beers, clothes, and adventures such as riding a bike in central park are perfect.
We are building a community where companies can reach out to curious consumers that are looking to experience the culture of the city. It’s common today to see a lot of people fall in love with NYC, London, Paris, Milan.
But they haven’t got the chance to truly connect with the city and its culture. That’s what we want to make possible by exploring more cities with the same interface.
3. How have you monetized ShoppiApp?
We differentiate carefully the monetization due to different segments. However, we primarily charge a subscription fee for increasing the ability to target more cities.
Additionally, we also work with a few partners on a commission basis for their service, especially if they’re offering something that is specially tailored for our community.
We welcome companies that have a travel product line or simply “made in NYC” to advertise with us.
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The travel market is huge but what we’ve observed is that local companies struggle to connect with tourists because of cultural barriers. This is a missed opportunity for local businesses as they are missing out on international buyers.
Moreover, it pushes most tourists to go to malls and miss out on some unique local experiences that make their trip memorable.
5. What do you foresee in the near future for ShoppiApp?
We want ShoppiApp to become an essential tool for travelers. We’re working to improve our technology and ensure a seamless experience everywhere.
It will be like having a virtual tour guide in your pocket that is able to understand your lifestyle and help you to manage your trip needs from the beginning.
I am pretty sure that within the next few years, more and more people will look for options that make their travel less stressful.
They will put more trust in the automation for things such as ordering travel insurance, managing their budget and avoiding overpricing which can be a problem when you come back home.
6. As a business owner, what would be your advice to others who are building and growing their business in 2020?
My main advice would be to heavily invest resources in generating content for your future customers. From explaining your typical working day to showing how your business is working and makes you unique.
Tell your story as that is one of the best ways to engage with customers in this competitive landscape.
A winning company should have the ability to develop a locally recognized brand by identifying the right customer group and leveraging on the local culture.
Growing is important but it is also important to fragment your customers. If you don’t then your marketing efforts will not be focused and it’ll make it easy for your competitors to replicate your ideas.
If you are looking to expand then narrow your audience and make your business popular in your area first. Some of the biggest brands were born locally with a strong attachment to values such as communities.
In other words, identify your tribe’s expectations before taking any big decision.