I created a mobile app for local shopping called Niche - Shop Local, and I'm looking for feedback and advice, especially WRT marketing to small-scale producers.
The idea is for small businesses and small-scale producers to sign up on the Niche website - https://www.nicheapp.us - and describe their products, locations, and schedule.
Then, customers can use the Android and iOS mobile apps to:
• browse local products,
• search for products by name, seller, category, and location,
• view product and seller descriptions, availabilities, and prices,
• save products to a shopping list,
• save sellers to favorites and read their posts,
• share product listings on social media, and
• get directions and travel times to retail locations.
Niche is currently free for both sellers and customers, and it takes about 10 minutes for a seller to setup their first product and see it in the app.
My current marketing plan is to print postcards that I will mail and hand out to vendors at farmers' markets. One side is directed to the seller, describing the benefits of signing up, and the other side can be displayed at their register, telling customers to "Find us on Niche".
How can I get small-scale producers to try the app, give feedback, and spread the word to other producers?
What a great idea! One way to reach growers is through county extension offices. Here, for example, is a link to help one find extension offices all over the country:
https://www.gardeningknowhow.com/extension-search The postcards, too, are very nicely designed. Who did those for you? I am in the middle of setting up a business and am looking for a good business card, logo, and label designer.
Good luck with your enterprise!
I like what you're trying to do. Honestly I've thought of doing it myself... but I haven't got around to it and maybe never will. So I'd like you to do well and have this product exist so that I can use it without having to make it.
Two big questions come to mind for me:
1) How do you verify that someone is a local producer? And how do you prevent a big chain store from using your system to promote themselves?
2) There are costs to own and run such a service. How are you going to pay for them?
I see that you are setting it up for free right now for all parties... except yourself. While I understand wanting to entice new users (good idea), I also think it would be good to set the expectation from the start, whether that is a cost for the producer or ads (likely) bothering the consumer. I think people are less likely to pull out that way.
I ask this because as a producer (which I'm not yet) I would not want to sign up for this system and help make it big and have all of my customers rely on this system... and then have it start costing a bunch of money that makes it no longer worthwhile. It would be somewhat like all those online marketers who relied on cheating the Google or Facebook or Amazon algorithms only to have those algorithms changed suddenly and then their businesses collapsed.
Because of this I will always favor systems that allow me to retain my own customers. Amazon does not allow this. When someone buys your product on Amazon you don't get their email address. If Amazon dies then I can't reach that customer to say "Hey I'm still alive over here!" Will I use Amazon to reach a few more people? Probably. Will I exclusively rely on Amazon to build my business and sell my products? No. Maybe your system can mitigate this concern. That would be great.
Wishing you all the best with this endeavour, wherever it takes you.
Hi Shawn. Thanks for your feedback. Great questions.
1) Sellers describe themselves and their products on the Niche website. If we discover false or misleading claims, we ask the seller to address the concerns, and if they don’t, we delete their account. In the future, we intend to add features to further inform consumers about sellers, such as customer reviews and ratings, buttons to report inappropriate or inaccurate content, etc. Sellers are also legally liable, if they commit fraud or make false, misleading, or deceptive claims about a product, for example.
I created Niche with the goal of helping small producers with direct-to-consumer sales and marketing, and that’s our focus on the seller side. On the consumer side, the goal is to make it easy for people to inform themselves about the available products, and to find the products they want. If we get a lot of feedback saying, “Hey, I keep seeing sellers and products that I don’t consider local,” then we will add features to help users filter products according to their definition of “local”. In this first version, we kept it simple.
2. Niche is brand new, and we released this free version to get user feedback before the season ends. The current plan is to charge sellers based on the number of products they list, with at least one listing remaining free forever. We might offer some “premium” features as well. We expect most sellers to pay less than $30/month and for many sellers to scale up their listings for a few months of the year, and scale way back the rest of the time, due to seasonal production.
I’m curious to hear more about the kind of information you would like to have about your Niche customers. It would be relatively easy, for example, to add a button that lets users sign up for your mailing list by providing their email address. That's exactly the kind of feedback we want to hear.
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2020 Permaculture Design Course for Scientists and Engineers, June 14-27