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Real-time, local marketplace comes to OSU

Ohio State students can now get what they want, when they want, without stepping out their front door, all on a new website.

Zaarly, which is backed by big name investors like Ashton Kutcher, launched in May and creates a marketplace where students can exchange goods, services and have the opportunity to make some cash.

“It lets you get what you want at the price you are willing to pay,” said Adam Hofmann, Zaarly’s director of marketing and community development.

When logged onto the website, users can see listings in their area of what people want and for what price. Users can also make an offer and fulfill the request face-to-face. Changing customer behavior can be difficult, but giving the consumer that “fire power” is the premise of the platform, Hofmann said.

“You get the consumer to name the price for what you want,” Hofmann said.

While Zaarly is meant to have a quick turnover of requests and deals, Hofmann said for now, it isn’t as real-time as it should be.

“If you post something in the next five minutes, you probably aren’t going to get it,” he said. “In the future there is always that possibly. What it is now, is a name-your-own-price marketplace.”

People can list desires for things ranging from a few pizzas and a case of beer, to paying someone to help them move, or event concert tickets.

ZaarlyU represents a focused push to get college students to use the site. There is no variation between the regular website and ZaarlyU, but it is a way to identify your college within the platform and have a focused search for things to buy and sell.

There are only 20 universities across the country that are a part of the ZaarlyU launch, OSU being one of them. Hofmann said the schools were chosen based on their own personal networks and choosing a diverse group of schools.

“We wanted to cover the spectrum and see if any particular school took Zaarly better than another,” he said.

While the 20 schools all differ in size, region and more, Hofmann said that all universities have taken to the website.

“Pretty much across the board the response has been the same, which is fascinating,” he said.

In order to spread the word about Zaarly, a campus representative program recruits “campus CEOs” and operates as a mini-version of the Zaarly business unit, Hofmann said.

The campus CEOs build a team and are responsible for marketing, operations, promotions and partnerships. OSU’s campus CEOs are Zach Boerger. a fourth-year in computer science engineering and Curtis Rummel, a third-year in computer and information science.

Boerger has big ambitions for Zaarly’s success at OSU.

“Since OSU is the biggest campus in the country, I pretty much want to make Zaarly a bigger success at OSU than it is at any other college,” Boerger said.

As a member of the Business Builders Club and an entrepreneur, Boerger said he thinks he has a good feel for what students respond to.

“I know exactly how lazy college kids are and how many times we forget to plan things ahead of time,” he said. “If a student needs something, I want it to be second nature that they think to Zaarly it.”

For those who want to be a campus CEO, Hofmann said to just “reach out to us.” Zaarly is still young, but growing rapidly.

“Don’t be silly,” is one of the only rules that comes with using Zaarly, Hofmann said.

Much like any other online marketplace, everything has to be legal. But Hofmann said there are good systems in place to keep the platform safe.

“If people are going to use this to traffic drugs or solicit and everything in between, the truth is that stuff doesn’t get through,” he said. “Our system blocks all of that.”

While they offer support if a transaction goes awry, Zaarly users assume all risk, and so far they’ve received no negative feedback, Hofmann said.

“You are connected with people nearby who are early adopters and they aren’t out there to screw people,” he said. “They’re really not going to do anything to you and our assumption is that people are generally good.”

That said, no safety issues have arisen so far in the four months the website has been live. Hofmann urges users to be smart and to not do anything they aren’t comfortable with.

“It’s not like you are going to be selling your books in a parking lot, in your car at 2 a.m.,” he said. “Public places are always the best, take a friend, use the payment system in the platform if you aren’t comfortable with cash.”

Zaarly profits from fees accessed when the payments option through the website is utilized to pay for the goods or services, rather than using cash in a face-to-face transaction.

While the website is an easy way to find something you need in a jiffy, or to make some quick cash, it also exists as a social network.

“We’ve had people continue to use it because they love meeting people on the other side,” Hofmann said. “One of the more overlooked positives of the platform is that it does connect you with people in an entirely new way. In a university campus, you are connected with someone in a new way.”

Hofman said Zaarly is a perfect tool for college students because there are so many times something is needed or forgotten and there is no time for it.

Tyler Lacy, a fourth-year in finance, said he thinks he would use Zaarly, although he has not checked it out yet.

“It sounds like something you can just find anything for,” Lacy said.

Students have been seen using it for class notes, textbooks or more playful requests.

“Somebody in Kansas City wanted someone to deliver a pack of Smirnoff Ice to his friends and ice him,” Hofmann said. “It’s playful stuff where no one gets hurt.”

Partnership within the campus can also be made. The platform can be used as a tool in fundraising by organizations, fraternities, sororities and more.

“Here are all the things you can Zaarly for us and all the proceeds will be donated to our club,” Hofmann said.

One of the downsides to using the site might be making your first post.

“You sort of get paralyzed with all of your choices that you do want,” Hofmann said. “Ask what do you need or what sort of questions do you have that someone can help you solve.”

Hofman believes that Zaarly will change the whole college experience for the better.

“Connect with students, make extra cash and when you run into a problem,” Hofmann said. “Post to Zaarly and see if someone can help around you.”


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