David Rey is the CEO of the online sales platform zerca!, a pioneering channel that aims to help local commerce to go digital. On zerca! you can buy products and services online from all those establishments that are members, but without neglecting the relationship with the consumer, “encouraging the greatest possible number of contacts between the user and the physical shop”. In three years they hope to have covered the whole of Spain.
-How have consumer habits changed with the coronavirus?
-The health crisis has brought with it the incorporation of a new niche of internet users. People who had never used this channel before did so out of necessity due to mobility restrictions, discovering the convenience and security of buying online. Once the limitations were relaxed, many of them have continued to shop online, to a greater or lesser extent. The increase has not only come from these new users; customers already accustomed to online shopping have increased the average amount and frequency of their transactions, for obvious reasons.
-Digitalise or die, is that the question?
-I don’t like lapidary phrases, but it is clear that digitalisation is not only desirable, but necessary for local commerce not to lose its position in the market. However, the concept of digitalisation has to be understood in a broad perspective. In our case, we believe that digitalisation is much more than just uploading products to an online platform and selling them. We are talking about harnessing the full potential of the Internet to empower local commerce with digital marketing tools, enabling as many contacts as possible between the user and the physical shop. If we limit ourselves to transferring commercial activity from the physical to the digital plane, we will not solve the underlying problem; the shops that are the backbone of our towns and cities will end up disappearing or losing relevance. This is the danger of “indiscriminate” digitalisation.
-What is the current level of local digitalisation?
-It is difficult to assess, there are few reliable studies on the subject. In Spain we are fortunate to have a digital infrastructure that is absolutely cutting-edge in the world, but we are not knowing how to make it accessible to local commerce. Technology, infrastructures or any other tool provided to local economic agents do not make sense if they are not accompanied by a personalised and guided training process, like the one we provide from zerca!
-What value proposition can a small business have through the internet?
-First of all, sustainability. Even if you buy digitally, if you do it in your local shop you are betting on a last mile logistics model, which has a much lower environmental impact. It is also a commitment to the local economy and the generation of local employment. These are all values that users are increasingly taking into account when deciding where to buy garlic. But also, the shop has to make an effort to find its position in such a global market, offering a product as specialised and differential as possible and a close service from a digital point of view.
-Can a digitised proximity shop compete with large retailers or platforms such as Amazon, Aliexpress…?
Not in price, not in depth of range either… It will have to compete with a value proposal based on attributes of economic, social and environmental sustainability, with a differentiated and hyper-specialised product mix and offering services that can only be provided from proximity.
-Was Zerca! born with the vocation of being an Amazon to make commerce more competitive? Where did the idea come from?
-Not exactly; our vocation has never been to be an Amazon. In fact, our model only resembles Amazon in certain digital service standards that we want to offer the user. But the value proposition for the retailer and the shopping experience for the customer are radically different.
-What does the project consist of?
-Basically, we work on evangelising local commerce throughout Spain, explaining the advantages of going digital following the zerca! philosophy and model, accompanying them throughout the training process in person and in a personalised way, and offering them, thirdly, the tool of our Marketplace as a platform on which they can obtain visibility for their brands and products.
Can the fact of being able to buy through this platform subtract physical customers?
At zerca! we prioritise physical sales over digital sales. We know that the priority of local commerce is to generate physical traffic to their establishments, that’s why we give the user total transparency about the shop, favouring a direct communication between them. If a user’s visit to zerca! leads to an advantage in the physical shop and not in our platform, it is welcome. In addition, we try to make the customer visit the physical shop at some point during the digital purchase process if they decide to buy their product on our platform.
-What stage is zerca! at?
-By May we expect to have completed the digitalisation of 2,000 shops in different areas of Spain. And our goal is to close 2021 with more than five thousand digitised local shops.
-Which sectors ask zerca! for more help?
-Basically the typology of commerce that can be found in any neighbourhood or town in Spain: food shops with more establishments in fashion, sports, electronics, home, beauty… The requests are proportional to the number of physical shops that exist in each of these sectors.
-What strategic partners does zerca! have to carry out the digitalisation?
-Our partners are TZir, the reference Retail Innovation Centre in Spain, Henneo Group and Hiberus Tecnología, which has made a fabulous deployment of talent and resources to generate a high-performance and high-capacity platform. In addition, we have strategic agreements with Telefónica and Correos, who have been with us since the beginning of this project and who are fully committed to our mission of empowering local commerce.
-Is it possible to digitise a business anywhere in Spain thanks to Zerca!
-Yes, of course, that is one of the advantages of our value proposition. However, we are carrying out an ordered digitalisation from a geographical point of view in order to highlight consultants in those areas where we penetrate, accompanying businesses in person during their initial digitalisation.
-What are your expansion plans?
-Geographically, we hope to have covered almost the entire national territory in 3 years. We are also developing other projects related to the digitisation of local economic agents which we hope to present in the coming months.
-People are starting to rely more on buying food online from covid… What solutions do you have for this?
-No solution, because we don’t think it is a problem. The more channels the customer has available to make a purchase, the more likely they are to make a purchase… therefore the easier it is for the retailer to close a transaction.
Could ‘Mi Zesta’ (the zerca! food market) reach all the food markets in Spain?
You can be sure that this is what we are going to try to do. And as Zaragozans, when we get an idea in our heads, it’s difficult to make us give up…
You can visit the Zerca! website here: https://www.zerca.com