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There are a lot of well-meaning, ethical consumers who desperately want to shop local, support local businesses, and (possibly) protest some of the practices adopted by Amazon. But many of these consumers also are busy, time-pressed people, without the luxury of spending their entire afternoon trekking all over town to track down each item they need. The convenience of placing a single online order and having it delivered to their homes simply outweighs the moral desire to give their business to local stores.

The solution then must be to help people access the local businesses they want to patronize, and that’s precisely what Cinch Market seeks to do for shoppers in Brooklyn. The online aggregator lists the stock in inventory at scores of local stores, enabling people to place a single order that gets them a candle from one small retailer, toys from another, and pastries from the nearby bakery. A Cinch Market employee visits each of the local stores, gathers the items, and then has them delivered to the shopper’s home.

Beyond the specific offerings and services, Cinch Market promises shoppers that they can feel good about their purchases, by making its three guiding, ethical principles clear and part of all its marketing communications. We can paraphrase those principles as follows:

  • Community over Profit. People place orders, and businesses provide them, and that’s part of what makes a strong community. Cinch Market does not charge direct fees to either consumers or companies; it supports itself by taking a percentage share of each sale and charging delivery fees.
  • Take Good Care of Each Other. The wages for the delivery staff range $20–$25 per hour, and they also can earn tips, making it a viable employment option.
  • We Are Better Together. Claiming no “secret” mission, the company relies on building scale to reduce costs overall, noting “When we team up, we all succeed by keeping money in our community.”

The appeal is thus notable, though a direct comparison with Amazon’s offerings also highlights how difficult it is to compete. That is, Cinch Market charges a $5.95 delivery fee (versus $0 for Amazon Prime members). It promises same-day delivery within a specific geographic region as long as people place their orders before 10:00 a.m. (similar timing but far less geographical reach than Amazon). It cannot guarantee availability, because it relies on the individual retail partners to update their inventory on the site (versus Amazon’s industry-leading, detailed in-stock information). The approximately 30 retailers currently participating in Cinch Market account for around 21,000 products (versus Amazon’s essentially unlimited offerings).

More retailers are joining the platform though, such that Cinch Market expects to double the number of stores from which shoppers can order. It also plans to expand its geographic reach to the Upper West Side of Manhattan. Furthermore, it highlights a different comparison with Amazon: Whereas Amazon charges sellers a 15 percent fee on all sales through its site, Cinch Market requires a maximum of 9 percent.

For local retailers, Cinch Market thus represents a much better deal, as long as the sales to patrons in their community are sufficient to keep them in business. For those patrons, the platform represents an appealing way to feel good about buying items. Whether those benefits are enough to allow Cinch Market to survive, even in the presence of Amazon, remains to be seen.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What are some of the pros and cons of Cinch Market’s business model?
  2. How do Cinch Market’s three guiding beliefs align with a broader conscious marketing approach?

Source: Anne Kadet, “Brooklyn Startup Puts Local Spin on Online Retail Market,” The Wall Street Journal, September 8, 2020; Tom Ryan, “Will Locals Choose Brooklyn over Bezos?” Retail Wire, September 14, 2020