Exploring the natural and cultural wonders of a new spot while on holidays can be extremely enriching, but also extremely rewarding is coming across a shop off the beaten track and coming home with a new addition to your home or wardrobe about which you can smugly tell someone, “Oh, I bought it at a boutique in rural Spain” when they ask where you bought it.
Of course, finding those unique boutiques and stores in a new city or country can be a challenge for travellers; looking to make it easier by providing them with a curated guide is Travelshopa, launched by Australian Renée Lodens four years ago.
Allowing users to search by destination, product, or brand, the platform enables shopping-loving travellers to connect with independent brands across the fashion, homewares, and furniture spaces in a certain location.
Living in Singapore at the time of launch, Lodens was travelling a lot for both business and pleasure. While she is the type to enjoy extensively researching a destination, she thought there had to be a better way to discover the local shopping scene.
“I started out by visiting shops and shopping events to talk to business owners about how they promote themselves, and from there I started blogging in 2013, creating shopping guides to each city and profiling lesser known brands. This content was unique and so shoppers and brands liked it, and things grew from there,” Lodens explained.
“I also wanted to help shoppers navigate a city like a local, and have memorable shopping experiences, steering them away from well-known global brands.”
With almost 20 destinations across Asia, the Americas, and Australia now on Travelshopa, the platform first launched as a blog focused on Singapore and grew from there.
Lodens said being based in Singapore allowed her to build up the guides more easily than she would have been able to if based in Australia; she was able to travel “quickly and frequently” to new destinations in and outside of Asia to create the content and build up the network of contacts that she needed to grow the platform.
While the adding of new destinations has come in part from reader feedback and demand from brands, Lodens she has been guided by industry reports around tourism spend.
“I always wanted to bring Travelshopa home to Australia but I was waiting for the right time. From 2015 to 2016, the Australian tourism industry grew by 9 percent total visitor spend and Deloitte reports that visitor numbers are growing at nearly three times the rate of global,” she said.
“These numbers confirmed that now is the right time to launch Travelshopa in Australia.”
The platform is free for brands to join, with a tiered subscription model with pay-per-click functionality then coming into play; brands can also work with TravelShopa on bespoke content, advertising, and partnerships. A brand’s profile lists what kind of products they stock, their price range, social media profiles, and both their bricks and mortar and website addresses.
“We reach out to emerging designers, independent retailers, and industry professionals to be part of Travelshopa. I find trade shows, industry events, walking the streets and good old fashioned word of mouth bring us the best referrals for brands, while we also get a lot of brands coming proactively to the site,” Lodens said.
On the shopper side, the platform is targeting “style-conscious” travellers and shoppers.
While the number of platforms out there offering travel guides for one thing or another is constantly growing, Lodens believes Travelshopa is unique as it focuses purely on local shopping experiences to connect shoppers to local and independent brands.
“While there are many city guides and platforms provide insights into each city, no other platform exclusively covers shopping across Asia, the Americas and Australia. We are dedicated to being shopping specialists around the world,” she said.
The quest for the ‘local experience’ while travelling is something a number of startups are looking to fulfil.
Recently launched in Australia, for example, was KimKim, which connects customers looking to book a trip with a travel specialist either based, or well versed in, the country a customer wants to travel to.
Over an online chat, the travel agent will work beside the customer to put the trip together, with the ability to share links, pictures, itineraries and other documents over the chat for the customer to access. Once a traveller is on their trip, they’re able to use KimKim to contact the travel professional if any issues arise or to ask additional questions, with the response time decreased due to the likelihood of the travel agent residing in the same country the traveller is staying in.
Also playing in this space is Queensland’s Travelshoot, which aims to help travellers go beyond the cheesy, generic selfies taken in front of all the regular tourist traps by connecting them to a local photographer for a high quality destination photoshoot.
As such, while the retail landscape globally is undergoing significant change and customer expectations are also shifting, Lodens believes that more than ever before travellers are looking to looking to have bespoke, memorable experiences, and Travelshopa serves this purpose.
Looking ahead, Lodens said Travelshopa will be focused on expanding upon its existing destinations, with particular efforts in Melbourne and Sydney. Expansion into regional destinations around Australia is also on the agenda before looking to other capital cities.
Image: Renee Lodens. Source: Supplied.