When one calculates the impact of their life, they measure not in what they achieved for themselves, but what they achieved for others. When Covid-19 hit, I joined GetVirtual to help small business owners. Owners are deeply tied to their businesses -- these are passions but dreams they have put years into achieving. As I was working with my clients, I saw firsthand how little exposure their great products were receiving. From bacon-flavored olive oil to the Homeless Garden Project's baking mix, I knew demand existed for these unique, wholesome goods. This inspired ShopLocal Santa Cruz, a digital marketplace dedicated to the wellbeing and promotion of local small businesses. By aggregating products from the local economy, we aim to reduce search costs and drive revenue to our small business partners.
What it does
The ShopLocal website presents online buyers with a wide variety of uniquely Santa Cruzian products. The buyer places an order accessible through the Shopify API. Our "OrderBot" program then places that order through our small business partners' website using a Selenium browser emulator running in Python. The small business associated with that item receives the order and delivers the item to the buyer. The system requires integration with the small businesses it buys from.
How I built it
The Shopify store is composed of a curated selection of products that embody the unique character of the small business they originated from.
The Python consists of an API call to get new orders and an emulator bot that automatically relays the client’s orders to the original small business' website.
Challenges I ran into
Curating and transferring hundreds of products from the small business' online store to the ShopLocal SC website was time-consuming.
On the backend side, many small business' websites were difficult to order from using a generalized bot due to differences in their cart and checkout interfaces.
Accomplishments that I'm proud of
ShopLocal offers 300+ products from a variety of local small businesses. The order bot is functional for a wide range of products and we are ready to start serving local businesses.
What I learned
We learned that buying online from small businesses is currently a struggle. Many of them have unappealing websites that do not convey the value they provide. When we were searching for products to feature, we were wading through online stores that were poorly designed, difficult to navigate, or lacked key functionality.
We also learned Python has a surprisingly robust system for emulating Chrome browsing activity. This allows a sophisticated enough web driver to proceed through the online checkout process like a real person.
What's next for ShopLocal SC
We will be promoting this project through local news sources as well as the Santa Cruz Works newsletter to get people signed up. Our goal is to have 500 orders placed through the site by the end of the year.