It’s been a busy year or so for small business eCommerce. As we’ve all heard said repeatedly, the pandemic has forced consumers and small businesses alike to embrace eCommerce. So much so that by some estimates a decade has been shaved off the adoption timeline.
And of course, we all know by now that what we’re experiencing is an acceleration of existing trends. Nothing that is happening wouldn’t have happened anyway. From the shift to remote work to the prevalence of eCommerce and home meal delivery. These trends would have just taken a lot longer in the normal course of events.
Enter Video Commerce
So it’s in this environment of acceleration that ShopCall has arrived. The Italian company, launched in Q4 2020, offers a “video commerce” solution that lets retailers sell online, but without any of the complexity normally associated with eCommerce. ShopCall’s only real requirement is a smartphone. For this reason, ShopCall makes sense for small independent retailers who want to sell online, but don’t want to deal with the hassle of setting up an online store, synching the inventory system, and other tasks that might deter busy merchants from selling online.
ShopCall lets consumers call into a store through the app. The merchant points their smartphone camera at merchandise on the shelf. And if the consumer wants to buy it, fulfillment is essentially a click away. There is a bit more to it. But that essentially describes the ShopCall customer experience.
Of course, ShopCall’s touchless nature makes it a natural Covid-related product story. But the business concept was formulated as a simple means for retailers to adopt online selling, independent of Covid’s impact. And now that the vaccine is arriving (albeit slowly), any new product needs a post-pandemic rationale.
How it Works
“ShopCall allows retailers to create a digital storefront, inviting anyone to visit the store virtually, by appointment, accompanied by the shopkeeper. They can choose the most suitable product, explain their needs in detail, and look at multiple items over video. Then they can make payments online through a very simple system integrated with Stripe,” explains ShopCall CEO Roberto Murgia.
“Logistics will be simplified as well. The buyer will be able to choose between picking up their purchase in-store at a convenient time, or having it delivered directly to their home. The platform is ready to be scaled up for international use.”
Watch this video to visualize the ShopCall experience
What the video conveys, and Murgia points out, may be the true magic of ShopCall. The company doesn’t sell itself as a substitute for an online store from Shopify. Woo Commerce or any other sophisticated eCommerce platform. In addition to ease of adoption (we were given a demo and it is pretty dead simple), what ShopCall really enables is the merchant’s personality and selling ability to come through in a remote experienced. This is no small matter for merchants who value their or their teams’ sales ability.
This also points out ShopCall’s key limitation. Since sales take place in real-time, via a remote human interaction, the merchant loses the 24/7 scalability an online store offers. It’s probably a tradeoff many shopkeepers are happy to make. And if the video-commerce trade justifies it, they can add staff to handle the additional volume.
ShopCall’s real competition isn’t Shopify. There are other similar solutions in the market, including Goinstore, bambuser, and Hero. But the ultimate competitor is Facebook’s WhatsApp, which already plays a similar role, if informally, for millions of merchants worldwide. ShopCall contends its merchant and consumer experiences have key advantages over WhatsApp. One difference is ShopCall, unlike WhatsApp, doesn’t require phone numbers. And ShopCall claims explicit sales and eCommerce features that WhatsApp lacks, including shopping carts and payment processing. And ShopCall says it is GDPR compliant, an important feature for European merchants in particular.
Advised by Local Leaders
In order to accelerate its growth, ShopCall formed an advisory board that includes some familiar local commerce industry names. Serial entrepreneur Perry Evans, currently GM & President of Evercommerce, and James Ciueffetelli, the former EGM Digital for Sensis (Australia), have signed on as product and go-to-market advisors to ShopCall. In addition, Yosh Sagie, a former Amdocs sales executive and a familiar local industry figure, has joined ShopCall as its head of global business development.
ShopCall follows a subscription-based SaaS business model. Merchants pay a monthly fee per location to use the solution. For customer acquisition, the company is pursuing direct sales. But the main thrust of its business development strategy is to pursue channel partnerships.