For people whose idea of hell is aimlessly wandering round the Arndale Centre, a Manchester-based start-up might just be their saviour.
Everywalk.com is a free one-stop shopping platform, handily creating the first personalised high street and allowing people to browse the world of online retail in one place.
Launched this year, the company is still in its infancy – and with the reasoning fresh in the mind, founder Chris Fogg sat down with MM to discuss this shopping utopia.
“When I was searching for stuff for our home, I found myself racking my brains wondering which website I saw this piece of furniture on, or what tab that was on,” said 40-year-old Chris.
“The limitless choice that the Internet offers, retail-wise, is fantastic, but if only we could sort it and make sense of it.
“I set myself the brief of – okay, don’t criticise online shopping, come up with a solution, so I started just drawing things up on a piece of paper.
“It’s really exciting times, it’s just gone live, and we’re keeping as many local suppliers as possible so it really feels like it’s born out of Manchester.”
Inevitably, detractors and high street loyalists will see this as another nail in a nearly completed coffin, with the number of shoppers reportedly falling by 9% year-on-year.
Chris, however, insists Everywalk comes to praise the high street, not to bury it, with the platform looking to make retailers’ lives easier – and their shoppers’, too.
“We think it will enhance the high street, we’re bringing the retailer and the consumer closer together,” he said.
“If people want to purchase online that’s their own decision, and if they want to stay close to a particular brand, Everywalk is there as a personal reminder.
“It’s the idea of bringing these brands a lot closer to the consumer in their day-to-day lives because of the convenience and the social expression that they can use.”
Social expression – for a platform that at least initially encourages increased computer use, it might seem an odd term, yet this is an integral component.
Friends can ‘share’ their high streets, removing that aimless drift from shop-to-shop before gifting an unwanted voucher.
With plans to replicate the layout of certain high streets up and down the country online, too, familiarity should breed comfort.
“When it comes to my nephew’s birthday, I can be a bit more creative and see what shops he likes, and you can start seeing how we can really pull the retailers in as well.
“My high street might be completely different to yours – you can then share your high street and follow the high street of your friends.
“Say, for example, we get Chester on there – Chester City Council can build their high street, so people will follow that particular street, and when they go there they are familiar with it.”
Whilst the story behind Everywalk points to a circumstantial ‘Eureka’ moment, the reality is that the platform has been built upon Chris’s years in brand building.
Almost magpie-like, he has picked up techniques and tips from a lengthy career – and one element he is keen to emphasise is the ethical attitude to personal data.
A bespoke concept like this might seem manna from heaven for personal data vultures, but Chris insists that in this respect, Everywalk could be a game-changer.
“Personal data ethics is a big thing that is close to my heart.
“Take Facebook and Google – by their very nature they have got to give up personal data, it’s the only way they can operate.
“We’ve devised a model now where we don’t give up anyone’s personal data, we don’t sell traffic.
“A retailer might want to push something through to a particular target audience – we do that for them, we don’t give out names and addresses.
“This is a real breakthrough.”
Speaking on behalf of those very people that break out into a cold sweat every time we enter an unknown shopping precinct, we certainly hope so.
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