Home IT management Forbes EQ BrandVoice: Online Retailers: A Lesson From New York City Street Vendors

Forbes EQ BrandVoice: Online Retailers: A Lesson From New York City Street Vendors

Forbes EQ BrandVoice: Online Retailers: A Lesson From New York City Street Vendors


Written by Swalé, Founder, Iuncta

New York City’s Fifth Avenue has reclaimed its position as the world’s most expensive retail street in the world. As refined as that specific location is, the city is still even more famous for its cheapest and rawest form of retail: street vending. Whether it’s the food vendors everywhere in the city where there’s foot traffic, the souvenir vendors strategically stationed at all the city’s attractions — especially Times Square —or the counterfeit luxury goods vendors on Canal Street in NY’s Chinatown, it is retail in its most purest form.

It is a private experience in the most public of places; the in-your-face transactions are anonymous; it is a bare hand-to-bare hand exchange of goods for cash. You can bargain for the best deals, and you receive the goods immediately with no proof of purchase — but still you leave satisfied. It is a stark contrast from retail on the famous Fifth Avenue, but an even starker contrast from what retail is online.

There is nothing anonymous about online retail. It is not in-your-face, but it is invasive; the transactions are neither personal nor private; you cannot hide behind the anonymity of cash; your patience isn’t tested during bargaining; but it is during the search for discount coupon codes. The delivery of goods is neither timely nor guaranteed. If street vendor retail can be described as a haggle, then online retail can be described as a hassle. A hassle with uncertainty that mounts the longer it takes for you to checkout.

These two forms of retail are so different they seem unrelated: Online retail is more akin to surveillance and user tracking than it is to the act of actually buying and selling goods. It almost feels as if though online retailers have been convinced to be more concerned with the collection of user data while shopping than actually making a sale. It is such a counter-intuitive paradigm, one that is being propagated by the e-commerce tools that supposedly help online retailers with conversions but instead are primarily focused on user data capture — which still is yet to be effective enough to justify the effort and marketing spend. In New York City, vendors know not to ask too many questions; as a matter of fact, a single question is already one too many. Vendors don’t really care who you are or how you got here; they don’t care what you bought before or who you bought it from. Their number-one priority and concern is whether you’re buying from them, now, in this present moment. If not, get out of the way, you’re holding up the line and getting in between them and their money. You can bet your bottom dollar that money is the bottom line.

Times are changing. Shoppers don’t want to be tracked or be forced to provide information they deem unnecessary to complete the sale. They are becoming more privacy conscious and want a transparent, convenient and secure way to shop online while maximizing the value of the products received in each transaction. Retailers are beginning to feel the impact of this shift toward data privacy, and they want to establish consumer trust that will lead to conversions, sales and brand loyalty. None of which the current state of online retail and its stakeholders are prepared to support.

That’s what makes Iuncta so timely and needed: At its core it is a privacy-first identity platform that realizes value in the digital interactions between online shoppers and retailers and enables them to connect, partner and then transact seamlessly. It’s right there next to your favorite street vendor, at the cross street between shopper desires and the retailers that can fulfill them, increasing retailers’ effectiveness to sell and making shoppers comfortable enough to buy.

Iuncta makes it so shoppers know they’re getting the best deal because the retailers want them to. That is the definition and ultimate goal of retail: to bring parties together to exchange goods for payment in the most valuable way possible. That process, in its simplest form, is what has kept New York City’s street vendor community thriving, and it is one of the main reason visitors come and keep coming back. Next time you’re in the city, make sure to indulge on some street meat, and don’t forget the bev (NYC slang for beverage).


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