New app SokoLocal launches to encourage local shopping

SokoLocal, an Alberta-made search engine, made its official launch into Albertan communities with the aim of consolidating the catalogues of community businesses to make it easier for folks to shop local from home.

Bow Valley Crag & Canyon

Printed in The Bow Valley Craig & Canyon on April 22, 2021. By Riley Cassidy

Multiple Albertan communities are currently on the SokoLocal database developed by MQLabs, including Calgary, Edmonton, Banff, Canmore, Airdrie, Black Diamond, Edmonton, and Fort McMurray.

It officially had a soft launch on March 1, but MQLabs did a hard launch on the week of April 12 after more businesses from more communities were compiled.

SokoLocal works as a product search engine that compiles the online catalogues of local businesses in communities included.

Users will be able to search for items and easily compare local prices, and ultimately purchase items from community vendors.

The online tool can be accessed through the SokoLocal app, available on the Apple and Google app stores, as well as by visiting sokolocal.com.

Dustin Miller, Vice President of Marketing for Mobility Quotient and MQLabs, said there is no cost for businesses to be included, and the search engine works by compiling their already- existing online catalogues.

"We're cataloguing their existing websites and indexing their products, making them searchable in a centralized place," said Miller.

The tool works similar to search engines such as Google, but the main difference is that local businesses are highlighted as opposed to larger international retailers.

Currently there are 25 shops and over 10,000 products included from Banff businesses, and there are 29 shops and over 15,000 products from Canmore.

10 Airdrie businesses are currently included, with over 10,000 products at the time of this article being written.

Purchases are technically made from a business itself. As opposed to delivery services like Skip the Dishes or Door Dash, SokoLocal doesn't upcharge for items or take a cut of any sales.

For the same reason, items purchased will be delivered or made available for pickup through whatever mechanisms an individual business has in place.

Miller said it's easy for businesses to be included, and business owners can submit their online shops to sokolocal.com to have them listed.

He added that MQLabs is on the hunt for businesses to include.

"All we need is to bring businesses on board and make sure that shoppers can find them. That said, we don't know all the businesses that exist out there," he said.

"We need businesses who find the app and are interested to go online and submit their shop and see if they can be catalogued."

Miller said there are limitations for the types of online stores that can be included, but added that MQLabs is offering to help those that fall between the cracks.

"We offer services for businesses to fix any of those problems.

If their website isn't set up for e-commerce, we can help them do that," he said.

While work is being done to implement SokoLocal around both Canada and the United States, Miller said the primary focus is implementing it throughout Alberta.

"We really want to focus on Alberta first. It's close to home, and that's where we want to have the most impact," said Miller.

"There's a lot of stuff in the media right now about Alberta diversifying.

We're in tech and have been in tech, and a lot of our clients are not local," he said.

We wanted to do that push, take our skills and abilities, and focus back on our home."

MQLabs reaches out to every business on the search engine to notify them that they're included. Businesses who don't want to be included can choose to have their online stores removed as well.

SokoLocal can be downloaded for free from the Apple and Google app stores, or users can also take advantage of the service by visiting sokolocal.com.