The world has gone through a revolution in how people buy goods. The buying process for most goods has shifted from shopping at physical stores to hopping online and buying what you need in a few clicks. This has left thousands of retail locations empty and abandoned. How people learn about and build a relationship with brands has also been fractured by this shift. There is no more talking to employees in the store, "feeling" the environment of the brand, or building a physical relationship with the brand that you are buying from.
On the flip side, consumers value getting their hands on products such as clothing before buying as well as building a trusting relationship with the brands that they buy from. Studies show that when a business opens up a location in a new area, online sales in that area increase. The conclusion is that consumers are now using business's physical locations as a place to go and "experience" the brand and their products or services before buying them online.
With over 100 million square feet of vacant retail space in the US alone, this presents an opportunity.
Instead of businesses entering into long term leases for retail locations, they can set up short term pop-up stores to drive brand awareness, urgency, and exclusivity with their customers. The infrastructure is already there for these pop-up stores, businesses and renters just need a simple way to set up these pop-up stores. This is where Shoplot comes in.
Shoplot aims to be the AirBnB of retail. It is an online platform that helps business find the best location for a pop-up store and then book them.
Research, Pivot, Research
Funny story, Shoplot started as an idea to make a virtual business card application. Through customer development interviews at trade shows, the problem emerged that the businesses paying to get the physical presence at these shows were having troubles making them financially worth it. My cofounder and I did some research on alternatives to these businesses getting physical presence at a lower cost and stumbled upon the massive problem with retail vacancy, which eventually lead to the founding of Shoplot.
After we pivoted, I had a few roles in the company. The first was to re-brand everything and create an online presence for the business.
Here are a few of the things that I tackled during this rebranding:
- Website development
- Colors, fonts, and overall brand image for the business
- Social media management
- Informational and advertising handouts for investors and customers
- Pitch deck development
In order to ensure that we were solving our customer's problems with the right solution, we conducted as many customer development interviews as possible this time around. I helped reach out via cold emails and cold calls to commercial realtors, property owners, and small business owners in the Boulder area. We conducted over 25 interviews within a month and a half and gained brought on an advisor during this process.
The 2019 New Venture Challenge was on our radars since we started working on this business. About one month before the first round of pitches, we started to build our pitch deck and ramp up our research efforts in order to try to get some early traction. I lead the design of the pitch deck and assisted with the pitch itself.
Here are a few of our slides:
In the end, both my cofounder and myself ran out of time to work on this project. When we lost in NVC, we learned a very important lesson when one of the judges asked the question, "Why are YOU the ones to build this company?" We really didn't have a good answer for this as the only thing that we could answer that with was that we had both been involved with small businesses before and were passionate about them. There were no connections to real estate or renting retail locations which were the primary components of this business. So, I still think that this business could work with the right team with backgrounds in these fields and the right implementation of the solution.