You are in desperate need of a pint of Salty Caramel from Jeni’s but really, really just don’t want to go outside. Or maybe you are stuck at work and need a new outfit for that fancy event you forgot about tonight, or don’t want to run errands so you can spend more time with your family. New app Whence is looking to solve these and other headaches by offering on-demand delivery for just about anything.
Whence combines a list of local retail partners and on-demand concierge service to fill customer requests. It’s creating a win-win for customers and local businesses alike.
First and foremost, customers get what they want on-demand, delivered right to their doorstep within 90 minutes. Each delivery is like providing people with more time. It’s also opening up the opportunity for users to explore new stores. Whence Founder Web Smith says the app is essentially providing access to areas consumers might have avoided because of parking or other hindrances.
Many of the app’s initial retail partners are clustered in the Short North.
“I wanted to find a way to bolster the businesses in urban centers,”Smith says.
Whence has already developed retail partnerships with Native, Ladybird, Rowe, Milk Bar, Thread and Robert Mason, and has something in the works with Lucky’s.
“We’re growing that day by day,” Smith says of their retail partners, adding they will likely add two to four new retailers a day as the app grows.
When adding new retail partners, Smith says, “The only criteria is it’s the best representation of the city.”
Whence is focused on supporting and growing local businesses. It’s creating a big win for small businesses when it comes to e-commerce. Rather than investing in an e-commerce site to expand their geographic borders, the app will allow those retailers to deepen relationships with current customers and build a bigger base of new customers.
“To build this type of solution for themselves [e-commerce], would cost a half year’s revenue for them,” Smith says, hoping their app is making life easier for small businesses. “The goal is to increase the audience for the vendors that are working with us.”
So how does it work?
Once in the app, it’s literally a few clicks before a customer’s product is on the way. If it’s from one of the growing list of retail partners, a customer taps what they want, clicks buy now, enters their shipping address (there is also built-in GPS that can find the location), and in the 90-minute window, goods are delivered.
An in-app chat with a concierge can help customers find about anything else they need. Unsurprisingly, one of Whence’s first post-launch concierge runs was for a six-pack of beer. But, the possibilities don’t stop there, it could be something like a rake from Lowe’s or fresh produce from the grocery store.
Whence will be a subscription-based service with two package options. For a subscription fee of $5 a month, users will receive $5 off every transaction and the 10th transaction is free. For $10 a month, a better value for the consumer who plans on using the service multiple times a month, users will receive $10 off every delivery and the fifth delivery is free. Delivery fees range from $9 to $22 depending on a user’s subscription, a price that Smith points out is probably less than FedEx or UPS, especially for a rushed delivery.
A rare quiet and relaxing morning at home with his wife and two daughters gave Smith the idea for the app. They were all enjoying family time, but an impending dinner party that night meant there were errands to run.
Smith thought, “What I would do to not have to move right now in this particular situation would make my day, if not my entire week.” Which was followed by the realization of, “I think I could solve this problem.”
This isn’t Smith’s first entrepreneurial venture. He is one of the founders of men’s retailer Mizzen+Main who recently tested a pop-up shop in Short North. The experience helped him learn the ins and outs of commerce in the area.
The self-funded venture launched to positive reception on Oct. 1. In the first few hours there had been seven deliveries from retail partners and two concierge runs, including $90 worth of Jeni’s. Smith is hoping to rapidly expand the app’s reach, expecting 5,000 to 10,000 subscribers pretty quickly and expansion to five cities by next summer.
More subscribers means expanded delivery options.
“The more subscribers we have, the more we are able to open up our time of day for operations,” Smith says. Whence currently delivers between 8:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. with a sliding scale for expansion in the plans.
For more information, visit whence.co.