The Zoutiz multi-function platform takes a web-to-store approach, coupled with a tool to analyse the retail needs of city residents, so as to promote local commerce.

Online Local Retail Promotion Platform a Further Step towards the Smart City?

Online directories are generating increasing volumes of traffic and in 2012 US-based Internet analytics company comScore estimated that 27% of total web traffic in the United States was now coming from these directories. This figure underlines the web-to-store trend, which means that people tend first of all to search for a product online and then go to a store to buy it. In fact, according to an infographic created by French online platform Mappy Local Business, 81%* of all French consumers nowadays look on the Internet for information before making a purchase. It was precisely with these customers’ needs in mind that Laurent Fabert set up Zoutiz in 2013. The Zoutiz online platform combines the functions of a directory, a guide to buying locally, retailers’ product listings and a ‘shopping social network’. The startup team, which is based at La Rochelle on the west coast of France, has spent several years working on online search systems before coming up with this comprehensive service, which can be accessed either on the Internet or via a mobile app.

Promoting local commerce

Zoutiz positions itself at the meeting point of e-commerce and in-store local shopping. Retailers can use the directory functionality to place their product and service catalogue online, the idea being that online visitors will make use of this listing as part of their search before going into a store to purchase the item in question. While e-commerce is definitely gaining ground in France, lots of people still like to look for a specific product on sale in a particular area so they can go and pick it up immediately at the nearest bricks-and-mortar outlet.  The Zoutiz platform is therefore a means for small local businesses that may not have their own websites to ensure visibility vis-à-vis Internet users, who might otherwise gravitate towards major retail chains. A local trader can also post a set of key words so as to optimise the search process. At the same time, another advantage for end-consumers is that joining the site enables them to exchange opinions and share information with friends on products they have looked at or bought.  The Zoutiz business model is based on retailers paying for packages of pre-paid clicks or as a cost per click (CPC) on their products.

Another step towards the smart city?

Meanwhile the company has signed a partnership agreement with the Canadian city of Magog, where the mayoress is President of Canada’s ‘Connected Cities’ association. Zoutiz will approach and list all the retailers in the town and then subsequently provide them with statistics on the needs of local inhabitants. “We can use these statistics to help the town and its storeowners to organise their product and service range better. We can see, for example, that at a given point in time a large number of searches was made on sofabeds. Now, if the town doesn’t happen to have any stores selling sofas, something could be done to fill this gap so as to avoid residents going off to buy elsewhere,” underlined Laurent Fabert. The French coastal town of Rochefort-sur-mer will be the second locality to sign up to a partnership agreement with his firm.  Zoutiz is also due to open an office in Canada and is planning to expand further in both Europe and North America.   

*Online survey carried out by French opinion pollster BVA for Mappy on 12 - 24 April 2013, among a sample of 2,000 Internet users

By Eliane HONG