Venture takes stores to shoppers

HAMISH MCNICOL
Last updated 05:00 25/08/2014
Erin Walshe
KEVIN STENT / Fairfax NZ
SHOP FRONT: Pricemaker chief executive Erin Walshe has begun a push to add more businesses to his online department store service.

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E-Commerce start-up Pricemaker lets shoppers visit a mall's worth of local bricks and mortar retailers all at once, and all from their smartphone or computer.

But first the Wellington-based company needs to build its stock, as it begins a push to sign up businesses over the next few months.

In June, Fairfax Media (publisher of stuff.co.nz) bought a 50 per cent stake in Pricemaker, which involved a seed investment and marketing commitment.

Fairfax was putting together an 18-month plan that would use both print and online platforms to build awareness of the service.

And last week, Pricemaker chief executive Erin Walshe began courting more businesses, in more retail categories, to sign up to the service.

Walshe, a former Westpac foreign exchange trading head, launched the company in 2012, the main idea having sat in his drawer since 2006.

It has since evolved through various iterations and through user feedback, to a website and app which starts "conversations" between a customer and their local retailers.

"Pricemaker is a way for a shopper to initiate an online conversation with a bunch of local retailers all at once.

"We don't restrict what a shopper asks for, but on the other end we don't restrict what a retailer offers back."

Pricemaker is a platform for shoppers to post a description of what they want to buy, which then notifies local bricks and mortar suppliers relevant to the product which can then engage with offers, questions and suggestions.

A shopper's description can be as specific as a particular television brand and model to as vague as "kitchen", Walshe said.

At the moment shoppers can make requests in only three different categories - appliances, new cars, and television.

But Walshe said Pricemaker was now seeking to add more businesses in more categories, from which a bigger customer base would hopefully follow.

"All we're trying to do is create a market place for those local trusted brands.

"So we're trying to say to businesses that we talk to, ‘Don't drop everything else, just add Pricemaker to your toolbox.

"We're just another tool to engage, they understand that, it's an omni-channel market now."

Pricemaker's website said more than two million New Zealanders now owned a smartphone.

Only a small percentage of retailers have an optimised online presence, Walshe said.

"If that business belongs to Pricemaker and they are subscribed to a certain category then they are going to see 100 per cent of the shoppers who are local to them who are after something in that category.

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"We're trying to introduce shoppers to as many local businesses as we can."

Walshe said the three existing categories had provided a workable platform from which to adapt the product, but there were countless other categories that could be added.

The only limitation for a new category was that it must have at least four businesses in it, he said.

"Ideally we would like that to go to six different stores that are local to you to maximise that experience.

"Why are expos so popular? It's because a shopper can go there and have all the businesses there at once."

- The Dominion Post

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