As Trouva’s co-founder and CTO and in light of announcing our recent Series A investment, I wanted to share my thoughts on the future of retail. With a positive outlook on what the future holds for the high street, I envision an independent future where Trouva continues to help bricks-and-mortar shops thrive.
Despite experts many claims, the high street isn’t dead. After years of people touting that “offline is dead, long live online”, 85% of retail still takes place offline and with more pure online retailers than ever launching bricks and mortar spaces; the question is why?
We don’t believe that the high street is dying, we believe it’s transforming. It’s turning into a new experience in which independent shops have a huge role to play. In verticals where inspiration is key and people still yearn for human contact, independents have the upper hand. What they need is strength in numbers and access to technology that will help them provide an 11 star customer experience both online and offline.
Over the past two years at Trouva we’ve proven that a community of like-minded independent creators, who have built beautiful offline experiences and have collections of distinctive products, can thrive when they are united and given the right technology. When one of our shops contacted us to inform us that they were now paying their rent via Trouva sales, that was the moment we realised the value we were creating. The core existential factor which leads to “a high street death”, was alleviated, allowing them to grow and thrive.
In just 24 months, we’ve generated more than 100,000 orders for our community of shops. Millions of pounds worth of transactions have been successfully redirected to independent bricks and mortar shops. 20% of those purchases came from Australia and the US, opening up the UK’s best independent retailers to people around the world who are looking for products that can’t be found everywhere else. It’s not just about buying a product, it’s about discovering homewares and lifestyle product collections that have been put together by people who know best. It’s about connecting with and being inspired by beautiful offline spaces that showcase the latest in design. Most importantly, it’s about being able to get your hands on that “lucky find” but with the same convenience as when buying from the big online players.
We’ve proven that we can leverage technology across inventory, marketing, customer support and logistics to connect the dots efficiently and bring our community of independents online. We’ve proven that by bringing these shops together you unlock economies of scale that in turn surfaces the unprecedented competitive potential that these independents have. We’ve levelled the playing field between independents and chains by deploying technology that works, and now we’re able to move to the next phase.
With this funding round we’ll be able to move further towards our vision of an independent future aided by technology. Our ambition is to leverage technology to help our community focus on what they do best: being human. We envision a future where machine learning is employed to radically reduce any task-driven workload for our independents, whether that is content enrichment, online categorisation or simple customer support resolution. What our independents love is the personal contact with customers in their shops and they should be able to focus all their time on that. We imagine a future where augmented reality is being utilised to extend the high street at home. Where the independent shopper is able to discover products from real shops run by real people and has the ability to build up relationships with the shopkeepers they are inspired by. We envision a future where technology is unlocked for independents faster than the chains, where agility wins over massive scale.
The high street isn’t dying, bricks and mortar shops aren’t doomed and independent shopping is not a thing of the past. On the contrary, they have a dominant position to play in a future of retail where stories and experiences really matter.
We just need to ensure that technology is utilised correctly to give them the leverage to thrive.
We are Trouva, we champion independence.
By Alex Loizou, co-founder.