Maybe you’ve noticed the change in the air: more and more consumers are forgoing big box stores for smaller businesses in their communities. The “love local” movement means that an increasing number of people are looking to invest in their communities, supporting the restaurants, shops, salons, and bars that bring color to their neighborhoods and strengthen their local economy. This is great news for small businesses looking to grow.
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The roots of the “love local” movement
The “love local” movement has been a long time in the making.
Some point to the resurgence of farmer’s markets around the country as a possible cause. The number of local markets climbed 76 percent between 2008 and 2014, according to the USDA. More and more consumers want to know where their food comes from and how it was grown, and love the experience of being able to connect with local farmers. To see the face behind the business, and to hear—and even participate—in the story of the farm and the produce, can be as compelling a reason to shop at the farmer’s market than the excellence of the vegetables.
It’s that connection that people are responding to. Shoppers know they’re not going to find anything like it at the sterile and impersonal supermarket chain nearby. This experience might have something to tell us about the reason people are turning to small businesses.
Why consumers “love local”
Research shows a number of compelling reasons customers are supporting their local businesses:
- Personal service
Fifty-two percent of consumers shop locally because they say local businesses provide better, more personalized service. Take a local coffee shop, where regulars are greeted by name, have their deepest coffee-related questions answered by passionate and knowledgable staff, and enjoy a feeling of warmth and community during every visit.
- Supporting the local economy
Small businesses are a boon to the local economy at every level. They hire local residents, work with local vendors and contribute to the city’s tax base. By making purchases at a small businesses, consumers know they’re helping their neighbors and their city thrive. Fifty-six percent of consumers say they shop locally because of the benefit to the local economy.
- Higher quality items
In many cases, small businesses offer higher quality products, meals, drinks, and services than customers can find at large competitors.Some small businesses make their own products from scratch, while others source their goods from reputable manufacturers to ensure the highest quality. And that’s a compelling selling point: about 30 percent of consumers say they prefer to shop at small businesses for the quality.
How to get some local love
Ready to get in on the ‘love local’ movement? Here are five tips to help your business bring in more locals:
- Show your owners, share your story
It’s true for every social media channel: photos get noticed. Images shared on Facebook were 2.3 times more engaging than posts without images, according to research from BuzzSumo, and photos with people in them do best.
Your community wants to hear your story and see your face! Try posting a picture every month or so of the store’s owners. Or, share a picture on the company’s anniversary of the founding days of the business. To really go for the local love, try a post that highlights the business’s local roots.
The post below from a family-owned butcher shop in a small town in Minnesota reminds customers that they’re supporting a local family when they shop at Stittsworth Meats.
- Promote local events
Whether or not your business is part of a local event, there are always things happening in the community. Check out your local community center or high school for upcoming events and share some top picks on your social media (and better yet, join in!). Customers will appreciate your investment in your neighborhood, and might start to think of your business as an integral part of it. (Halloween in particular can present a great opportunity).
Here’s a post from a small coffee shop near Buffalo that participated in Carolcade, a caroling party on Main Street during the holiday season.
- Team up with other businesses or nonprofits
Reach more customers by teaming up with other small businesses or nonprofits. Consider hosting a food drive for your local food bank. Both your business and the food bank can advertise the event.
Pool your resources with your neighboring businesses, and think about offering coupons or incentives to each other’s stores. For the extra-ambitious, you could even make a coupon book of local vendors.
- Join your local chamber of commerce
Most small towns have a chamber of commerce or a business association. These groups are a great way to tap into the power of your local business community. When a group like this works together to amplify each other, and share customers, the resualts can be huge. Take the Appleton Northside Business Association. The group helped host a passport promotion during the holidays where customers collected passport stamps at every business they shopped at. The passports were turned in for prize drawings.
- Post job openings on social channels
Besides posting a ‘Help Wanted’ sign in your store, try recruiting talent from your online audience. Post job ads on your social channels and ask current employees to do the same. You’ll not only reach a pool of potential candidates, but you’ll also show your customers that you hire local residents.
Here’s a look at an ad from a local coffee shop in Wisconsin:
Have you noticed the love local trend? What do you think your customers love about shopping local? Share your thoughts in the comments below!