The problem it solves:

Many local shops, producers and small business owners have suffered high revenue losses due to the COVID-19-crisis. But even already before they increasingly struggled to compete with huge commercial giants like Amazon or Alibaba as well as other marketplaces such as Etsy.

There are the following causes for this:

  • Even though the trend of buying unique products from local shops is growing, many consumers lack awareness on local offers due to their missing online presence
  • Although there are plenty of tools available to set up an online shop, many small business owners neither have the resources nor the knowledge to build such sites. Additionally, most of the offered solution are focusing solely on helping single shops to have their online presence which leaves the consumer with the task to hop from shop to shop to find what they look for.

Existing platforms that offer something similar are not run by the local community and tend to rather pull money out of the local economy. If the interplay of local consumers, local producers and an online marketplace does not reflect and support the trust and personal relationship that makes local trading so unique, local communities will not pick-up on it and also not benefit from it in the long run.

So the problem our idea solves is, how can we efficiently support local communities, governments or shop associations to easily build up and operate their one "loocle" marketplace that is also having an eye on the "search convenience" that consumers are so much used to nowadays. In a short term impact this would help local business owners to survive the crisis. In a long-term perspective this shall foster the social relationship between local consumer and producer to bring back more business to the city center.

The Solution:

Our idea based on three overarching objectives:

1 Ensure the convenience that customers can easily find the products they are looking for in local stores

With our solution, it is possible for customers to explicitly search for products and find the corresponding local shops or producers. The consumer is no longer forced to identify all the shops in the city that might be suitable and then search through their offers.

2 Enable local businesses to do business and be present online easily

Creating an online presence/shop is not as easy as it seems. There are many points you need to address when you start working on a web shop. Since most of the store owners are no digital experts, there is a need to help local communities to get the desired knowledge to build and run their own digital marketplace. Based on our proof of concept (Darmstadt Marketplace) we will create a template/framework for other communities to follow. Coach the Coaches.

3 Actively involve communities and strengthen the sense of community

Since the solution is based on an organizational structure in which the cities are actively involved, the community becomes active. In addition, the presentation of the individual suppliers and the possibility to pick up the product on site conveys a feeling of personal connection and togetherness.

What we have done during the weekend:

We started on the first day of the Hackathon from zero and during the two days we accomplished the following:

  • Team Formation and organisational set-up
  • Problem space alignment and problem definition
  • Rapid prototyping
  • Use case definition
  • Click Dummy
  • Business Model Canvas
  • Organisation model

The solution's impact on the crisis:

Our solution helps local producers, shop and business owners to stay in contact with their already existing customers and to help find new customers. Local economies are about to re-invent themselves - some with more enthusiasm, others more as a question of survival. In either way, we want to contribute to this re-invention of local economies, by helping to organize and run local online market places. Rather than technically reinventing the wheel is the focus of loocle to help enable communities to create and manage their own marketplace. By giving solutions for organizational issues, quality management and implementation, the local community can keep doing what it does best - focus on the participation.

The necessities in order to continue the project:

  • European support to set up an NGO on an international level as well as contact to early evangelists to would like to serve as testbeds
  • UI/UX Expertise to finalize the marketplace prototype
  • Developers for setting up the marketplace prototype
  • Get in touch with the City Marketing of Darmstadt and the Chamber of Commerce (IHK) to pitch loocle

The value of our solution after the crisis:

The covid19 crisis is the premise of an economic crisis that many say will be of a scale and duration that could exceed every crisis our modern economy has seen. It is highly expected that amongst the most affected by the economic downturn, we will find small local businesses and commerce. Already faced with the fierce competition of global e-commerce platforms, they have already been struggling over the past few years.

With the local market place, our solution helps local producers and shops to stay in contact with their already existing customers and to help find new customers. It also helps the customers to easily find products in their region or from their preferred local shops combined with optional e-commerce convenience. Positive experiences with loocle will be supporting the local economies beyond the current health emergency. Local economies are the basis of striving communities, they connect socially, foster economic productivity and sustain livelihood and infrastructure.

The local community who will manage the market place, will benefit from the tools for implementation and the long term support of the European non profit. With this, local communities are able to re-organize their trade. Rather than reinventing the wheel the focus of loocle is to help enable communities to create and manage their own marketplace. Loocle will gather best practices from multiple local experiences, give solutions for organizational issues and quality management and accompany the implementation, letting the local community do what it does best - focus on the participation and foster local life. While "loocle" will not substitute local economy or physical stores - they are appreciated by their customers also because of the physical proximity and contact - loocle will add a new dimension to local trade, representing not only the "stay at home" - version of local economy but also the "stay in contact" and "convenient ordering from wherever you are" after the current crisis, in phase 2 and beyond.

Thinking about what would be the USP of "loocle", we think that the community factor is essential to make a differentiated experience from Amazon. The community brings trust in the shopping experience and it brings a sense of ownership, which will engage the "villagers" in consuming locally. After the convenience of finding the product I want in a few clicks through the convenient platform, I can choose to have the product delivered or go walk into the store and browse more products and physically meet with the seller. I can share my experience of giving a value.

URL to the Prototype: Loocle App

What's next for Loocle

Loocle aims at stimulating the local economy through facilitating proximity commerce and encouraging local production of goods. The platform helps consumers find locally produced goods from local shops. The team built itself in one day and the idea has emerged within the context of the present hackathon from the contribution of each member. We have had to make many adjustments. We realised as we started building the solution that time did not allow us to thoroughly validate some of our assumptions and develop the according solution. Therefore we have short term objectives to validate our hypothesis and to structure the solution both in terms of technology and functionality.

short-term:

  • Thorough market research in Darmstadt and validation of hypothesis (potential consumers and producers/stores)
  • Develop a more detailed business plan
  • Develop a first marketplace prototype
  • Contact Darmstadt gov or Chamber of Commerce to pitch loocle

mid to long-term:

  • Work with government bodies and certification organisms on the creation of a label(s) for locally sourced goods (possibly based on official standards, DIN, ISO)
  • Tracking the origin of the parts or ingredients that form part of the product.
  • Stimulate local fabrication (and local employment) with government incentive.
  • Incorporation of gamification through the integration of a rewards system that makes buying locally sourced goods even more attractive.
  • Creation of a Kit (SDK) to help any town and city develop and apply the concept.

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