“What we’re really trying to do is replicate what Amazon does, but exclusively for local and independent businesses,” says Thad Beversdorf, the founder and CEO of Spendindie. The online shopping hub had its official launch at the SXSW Marketplace this year in Austin, Texas (which they were the lead sponsors of). After beta-testing its platform since last November, SpendIndie is now looking for a way to connect consumers to small businesses and change the way people shop online.
What sets the new site apart from the world’s largest retail behemoth is their focus on privately-owned businesses, and their desire to create an online shopping experience that puts these business’s products at the forefront. By doing so, they want to make “shopping local” accessible to online shoppers.
“The biggest barrier for consumers to do that, even consumers who really want to do that, is it’s not convenient,” Beversdorf says. “It’s a fragmented experience. Online, you go to 15 different websites, but that means you got to check out 15 times, so you’ve got to enter your information for shipping 15 different times. It’s inconvenient at the brick and mortar level, and it’s very inconvenient still at the e-commerce level.”
With Amazon offering a model of sorts, Spendindie hopes to draw in local business to help boost their online presence and introduce them to a wider customer base. “There are a lot of people who would prefer to spend money at independent shops, but just don’t have the time to do it,” Beversdorf continues. “So the idea was: Is there a way to make shopping local, independent, convenient?”
At the SXSW Marketplace, the SpendIndie booth was front and center — hoping to draw the attention of not just consumers, but the dozens of local business owners who’d set up shop throughout the Austin Convention Center.
“This is the big thing for us when you create a marketplace like this,” Beversdorf says. “This is what’s really difficult about building a platform for what we call a two-sided marketplace. It’s hard to get merchants in until you get customers there and it’s hard to get customers there until you get merchants in. The objective is really name-awareness so that people associate that name with what we’re trying to do.”
Outside of the SXSW Marketplace, which runs from March 13-16, Beversdorf [who once wrote a piece for Uproxx] is working to boost the site’s presence through testimonials given by small business owners who are already onboard. The purpose is to reveal a platform that is really about celebrating merchants and businesses, rather than just focusing on products. The site offers various buttons to different merchants based on whether they have women in key leadership positions, are sustainable, pet-friendly, use ecologically safe shipping materials, or are B-corp certified. No publicly traded companies are invited to the platform, as Beversdorf, an economist by trade, believes that the outflow of dividends to shareholders contributes to wealth disparity.
“A huge difference between most platforms that are out there right now is they’re product-based platforms. They’re offering a bunch of nameless faces, products, and price points. And in most cases, you’re not allowed to brand yourself as a merchant because the platform doesn’t want you having consumers circumvent their platform and going right to you. For us, we’re a merchant-based platform, we’re not a product-based. We support the merchants via their products. So we’re trying to get people to understand this is about you. This is a mechanism to promote you.”
If you’re in Austin, you can see what SpendIndie’s doing at the Marketplace. Otherwise, you can visit their website here.