Over the past year and a half, the Municipal Association of SC and Main Street South Carolina have worked behind the scenes alongside local Main Street communities to test and pilot a statewide e-commerce marketplace. In August, WeShopSC was officially introduced in a virtual ribbon cutting as the state’s only online collection of small businesses.
What is WeShopSC?
The WeShopSC web platform is designed to support small business owners from the most basic startup stage to those that are IT savvy, as well as owners that are struggling to establish an online presence.
Small business owners can set up a free online profile, connecting them to a statewide marketplace that offers commission-free selling opportunities, product searching, promotional capabilities and gift card options. It also offers automated order fulfillment options such as in-store and curbside pickup, local delivery and shipping capabilities.
WeShopSC helps minimize barriers and costs associated with websites and provides a community-centric buying environment, that can yield a greater local economic impact.
In a recent episode of the Municipal Association’s City Quick Connect podcast, Main Street SC staff Jenny Boulware and Jonathan Irick discussed how the website works, its build out and the recent grant award that funded it.
At the website WeShopSC.com, businesses join can set up a free business profile page and add features like gift card functionality for a small subscription fee. Shoppers can save their favorite businesses, their billing and order information, and use gift cards for in-store and online purchases.
Once businesses have registered and created a free profile, they can personalize their business directory page with details about the business as well as photos, videos, events, testimonials and more.
The nationwide online marketplace company and website Beyond Main, partnered with Main Street SC to develop WeShopSC. Through this partnership, technical support and training is offered to WeShopSC communities and business members. Sample training includes marketing, merchandising, and promotions.
“Beyond Main is thrilled to support South Carolina as they build a digital home for South Carolina based businesses to leverage the digital economy,” said Kate Giovambattista, founder and CEO of Beyond Main. “South Carolina’s leaders understand the importance of developing the ecosystem that will support the long-term growth of the small business sector. Our team of retail, technology, e-commerce, and marketing experts are looking forward to collaborating with community leaders, small business owners, and customers looking to make a greater local impact.”
In September, a team of Main Street SC and Beyond Main staff traveled more 2,000 miles to facilitate specialized e-commerce training. A grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission enabled the WeShopSC team to provide hands-on, in-person technical assistance to small business owners in a targeted, regional approach. As a result of the roadshow, more than a dozen small businesses have created a full e-commerce storefront on WeShopSC.
Heather Moore is the owner of Market on Mill in historic downtown Inman. She participated in one of the workshops.
“Whatever the Municipal Association develops, it’s always done with the highest caliber of excellence. WeShopSC is no different,” she said. “We've been watching this platform as it was being built. Participating in the hands-on workshops has provided step by step guidance — from personalizing my business profile to adding testimonials and product listings. The photography light box demonstrations and training were great — especially the tricks like using sticky putty, considering different angles, and utilizing natural light. The best part of this platform is being more accessible. We often hear people say that we are never open. Well, now we are, 24/7.”
Less than 24 hours after Moore created her online storefront, she received her first online transaction, totaling more than $60.
With the initial goal of assisting 3,000 small businesses by the upcoming holiday season, more than 300 small businesses have already created their free profile listing on WeShopSC and over 40 towns have created a local market.
“Having a centralized hub for South Carolina’s unique small businesses and local communities is fulfilling a larger economic development mission of the Municipal Association. As the downtown revitalization technical assistance program of the Municipal Association, Main Street SC is taking a grassroots approach to sharing this e-commerce opportunity across the state. This is a space for the smallest of our cities and towns — and the largest. WeShopSC is helping to expand the state’s physical brick-and-mortar square footage with individual, customizable online storefronts,” said Jenny Boulware, Main Street SC Manager.