You could be forgiven for thinking that the high-street and technology shared a sort of parasitic relationship, that the faster, the stronger and the more popular retail technology become, the slower the weaker and the more unpopular bricks and mortar stores are left.
With such a mind-set, Udozi (an app and website which allows you to see which store closest to you has your product you want in stock) certainly seems unusual. Can the rapidly developing app world really support the comparatively ancient high street? Udozi founder Alan Gabbay certainly thinks so: “Brits love the high street, but the key thing is convenience. If you go out shopping for the day and are told that the store does not have the product you want in stock, and that you will have to leave the store, go home and go online to get the product, then this is not convenient.”
The concept behind the Udozi app therefore is to use mobile technology to support the active shopping experience, rather than work against it. He continued: “Since the boom of the mobile phone app people are going shopping with these touch screens complete with GPS’s which they are able to use on the go. Udozi uses this so they don’t have to go home if their product is not in stock”.
Despite the apps convenience, there is no getting away from the fact that the web can offer products for much less than physical stores. However Gabbay insists that there are still some times when you simply need, or want, to have the product right there and then and are willing to travel to get it. One of these times actually provided the brain wave for Udozi. “I was at University and had left my revision until the last minute; I desperately searched online for something that could help me and finally came across a book that I was convinced would get me through the exam. I was willing to go anywhere to get that book that day, but after ringing up about 10 stores was still unable to find out where my nearest copy was. I wondered why it wasn’t possible to be able to do that”
Thankfully he was able to complete his degree without getting hold of the book, however he did not let go of the idea behind Udozi. A few years later he opted to explore the idea further and after speaking to a few independent retailers decided to focus on the W1 area of London as a base area for the website. After initially getting a few enthusiastic independent retailers on board, Udozi started to grow more rapidly following there first beta site.
The website now caters for over 3.3m product searches for over 150 retailers and has big names such as ToysRus and Liberty London on board. But what items is it that the British public need so badly that they cannot wait for delivery? “Looms,” Gabbay says laughing. “Looms and Frozen Toys.Frozen toys have been really popular; despite the film being so successful it’s quite hard to get hold of toys. We also had a lot of searches for football goals around the world cup time.”
It is not just loom hungry consumers that are enjoying the benefits of the App however, there are many aspects that make Udozi attractive to retailers. “Udozi is somewhat rare in that people using the app fully intend to buy. The browse to purchase rate is very high”. He went on to emphasis why the app works for retailers of all sizes“The App is attractive to small retailers because, if they are the ones that have the most stock, their product will pop up first regardless of their size. Alternatively, big retailers like us because we keep it about the product. Consumers are no longer having to think about where they must go for a product but are merely only having to search for it”