Bridging the gap between online and offline. Startup in Residence participant Zupr wants to help local retailers increase their in-store sales, brands to market their products locally, and consumers to find the products they need right around the corner. Simply put, the startup builds software to connect brands and retailers, in an effort to uncover local product availability to consumers.
Consumers are increasingly active online and brands and stores invest heavily in webshops, apps and online campaigns to sell their products. And yet, a 2018 study by Deloitte shows that more than 90% of actual purchases are made offline. “Physical stores aren’t going away anytime soon, because they still serve a very important purpose”, says Michiel Vos, Zupr’s founder. “So we wanted to empower local stores and at the same time help consumers and brands, all with one platform.”
The missing link: online to offline
Michiel Vos started Zupr in 2014, and hired Han Jongstra as software architect. Together they have quite an impressive track record when it comes to being entrepreneurs. Han was CTO and co-founder of Paylogic. Michiel co-founded NWC Media, a web development company, with Benjamin Derksen (Experty/Frank) while studying at the RuG. After selling his share in the company, Michiel founded a successful ecommerce platform selling made-to-measure blinds, Jaloezieen.nl, winning FD Gazellen awards 4 years in a row (2015-2018). Michiel has been using the proceeds to privately finance Zupr without having to resort to external investment.
Zupr has been four years in the making and there are currently eight people on the team, but the fundamental idea behind it, came to Michiel in 2008: “I love to cook and I was out doing groceries, but sometimes you have to go to different stores to get all the ingredients you need. So I was thinking it’d be really convenient if there was some way I could see which shop sold what, and if those ingredients were in stock. That was the first part of the puzzle, but it took a few years to figure out the other parts that now make up Zupr. It turned out we had to build a completely new online infrastructure to make our vision a reality.”
No hassle, no webshop
The majority of store owners, especially smaller ones, simply don’t have the time or knowhow to focus on online marketing to get more customers or launch a webshop. “They just want to focus on helping customers and giving advice, and that’s what they’re really good at”, Michiel says. “So why let them worry about the online part if you can let the brands they sell do that? We want our platform to better connect the brand and seller, not to give the seller extra work. So for store owners, all we need from them is to sign up to increase footfall - the number of people entering the store.”
Local brick-and-mortar retailers are very valuable to big brands, more so than webshops: “We’re currently in talks with a couple of brands manufacturing running shoes. They prefer offline retail, because running shoes are not really something you want to buy online. It’s something you want to try on first and get tailored advice. If you were to buy them online and it’s not the right size or type, sending them back is just a lot of unnecessary extra hassle. So these brands really want physical stores to keep existing, because they’re basically the brand ambassadors.”
“And when you connect the two with Zupr, the brands can see exactly what’s searched for in any particular location, which is really valuable for their marketing, because they can target consumers locally and see the local supply and demand. If consumers see an online ad and can also see the closest stores near them, that really helps sales.”
Startup in Residence
So why the Startup in Residence program? “The infrastructure behind Zupr is not really easy to explain, simply because you can’t really compare it to anything that exists in the market today. It really helps if you can just show that it works and have users experience the benefits. So the pilot we’re doing in Groningen is an ideal test showcase for us. The Startup in Residence program connected us to the Groningen City Club and together we’ve decided to focus on footwear first adding more product categories later. We’re currently onboarding local shoe stores and an increasing number of shoe brands are willing to work with us and test Zupr, which is really awesome!
“What we aim to achieve is to turn Groningen into the first Zupr city in The Netherlands, where all products sold in local shops can be found through the online channels of the city”, Michiel continues. “Wouldn’t it be great if you could drink a coffee in a local cafe, take out your mobile phone and browse all the products available in stores near you? It’s the future of retail and we’re building it!.”
And an added bonus, according to Michiel, is meeting Goederenhub Eelde Groningen, also a Startup in Residence participant. “They’re working on creating a logistical hub near Groningen for the last mile of delivery, so we’re currently seeing if there’s some way to work with them too. It would be great if local retailers could offer the same breadth in product choice as competing webshops. But physical shelf space is limited in brick-and-mortar stores and retailers have to choose which products to stock. If brands would stock items in a nearby hub a product requested online could be available instore in a matter of an hour. Very few webshops, if any, could beat delivery times this fast. How cool is that? There are so many possibilities where everyone benefits and, hopefully, we can help create a retail Renaissance.”