A new service concept which utilises real time mobile technology, GPS locators and video calling to allow customers to direct a personal shopper to a store of their choice and make interactive purchases remotely has been launched in New Zealand.
The global business model which has been compared to transportation company Uber due to its use of mobile apps is based on a growing global trend towards consumer outsourcing of their local shopping needs.
The UrbanSherpa personal concierge style service is modelled on similar successful services in the US and UK and is designed to help time poor Kiwis’ in urban areas. The CEO of UrbanSherpa Brian Dewil, says while national delivery services are well provided for, there is a gap in the market for the provision of local pick ups where a more customised decision or payment needs to be made at the point of purchase or where the retailer requires a shopper to be present.
“With the time pressures many executives and office workers are under these days, sometimes getting to the shop to buy mum’s birthday card, or even heading across town to get lunch, can be too hard,” says Dewil.
He says the customised delivery service can send a bicycle courier to collect a favourite lunch from a cafe that doesn’t deliver, or pick up a last-minute birthday present before the store closes - and drop it to their doorstep or office desk within the hour.
The service is launching in central Auckland, and will operate seven days a week with a team of ‘urban sherpas’ who will be available to pick up, purchase and deliver whatever customers need from the inner city district.
“With UrbanSherpa, clients can easily log a job with a sherpa, who will visit the store, choose and buy a card, and drop it back to them in the space of 60 minutes.”
“Customers can watch their sherpa’s progress in real time on the mobile app, and if there is a choice of three or four cards, our sherpa can contact them to check which they prefer so it’s right first time.”
The service will cost a flat fee of $19, and will initially be available within a 3.5km radius of the Auckland CBD to cater to busy office workers, but Dewil says he plans to expand the offering in Auckland, and into other NZ metro centres, over the coming months.
Dewill says globally businesses are engaged in a “race to zero” - where the costs is completely subsidised for customers by bricks and mortar retailers wanting to improve their customer service and compete with the rise of online shopping.
Customers will register their credit card details on sign-up to the service, and be charged for the cost of the sherpa, along with any items that were purchased on instruction, at the end of the transaction.
“Services like this have taken off overseas as people increasingly find themselves needing to delegate errands and tasks to someone when they are under pressure at work, or unable to leave home with illness or childcare restraints,” says Dewil.
“It allows people to sit back and relax while those errands and chores get done, or get on with the more important things they need to do while someone else takes care of something else on their to-do list.”
Dewil says the name UrbanSherpa is a tribute to the hardworking sherpas of Nepal, many of whom he met while living in India.
The company plans to support its namesake with regular donations to the Himalayan Trust, which Dewil hopes will help the community to recover from the recent devastating earthquake.
UrbanSherpa will be available as an app for Android, ios and Windows, plus as an online web service.