The hottest buzzword in marketing right now is: “Shop Local”.You’ve heard the spiel:
“Shop local, and you support local business in your community. That business in turn re-invests through jobs, expansion, donation, taxes, etc.”
Shop at chains and the money just flies right away…
But is it enough?
Recently we did a poll on our Instagram page (instagram.com/sticksanddoodles) with the question: “Given the same product, at the same price, would you take the ease and convenience of Amazon, or make sure to purchase the product locally.
The sample size was small - we had about 85 votes, but the results told a story. Just over 60% of votes were for shop local, meaning a large group of people would still take the Amazon route.
What was interesting though, was that 70% of the votes for shop local were from other local businesses. This means that if you remove the local shops, well over 50% of customers prefer the Amazon experience. On top of this, the majority of votes came from customers of ours, who have continued to support our local company since inception.
What does “Shop Local” Mean?
Shop Local is a marketing term. Sure it has some heart, but the goal of saying Shop Local is to convince people to buy from you. With the onslaught of the COVID-19 pandemic, it took on a whole new life as many small businesses rapidly bled the income they had and doors began to close. Shop Local became a plea to the masses to support the community in the time of need, and it resonated.
To a customer, hearing “Shop Local” during the crisis meant a chance to support their friends and keep the businesses they loved alive.
So Why Amazon?
As powerful as the term is, you have to look at “Shop Local” as just another Value Proposition that your business has to convince customers to shop. And when used incorrectly, “Shop Local” is actually counterintuitive to alot of basic marketing principles, as it is often about what’s in it for the business, rather than what’s in it for the customer.
NOW HOLD ON. Please put the pitchforks down.
I know that supporting locals is good for the customer too, but as I will explain later, the way it is used, is often in: “Buy here instead of amazon because it supports me, and I will then in turn support you!”
But, we live in a world of now, and your customers while understanding, are more concerned with their own needs.
Will the real shop local please stand up?
Think way back, way way way way way way way back. 6 months.
Covid was on page 4 and you were busy doing the same thing you always do, trying to bring customers in, and sell them your product or service.
Did you say shop local then? What did it mean?
Sure, we still talked about reinvesting in the community, but was that really the central idea?
Shop local because you’ll get phenomenal customer service!
Shop local because we know the kinds of things you are going through!
Shop local because you'll have an experience you can’t get anywhere else in the world!
Shop local because we know your name!
Shop local because we can fix your problem today!
We marketed what made us different, better, stronger. How we could fix your problems better than anyone in the world! Because we are local, we can offer you all these amazing reasons that you should choose our business.
Next time you advertise that you’re local, make sure you back it up with the incredible reasons why being local benefits your customers. That simple focus back to supporting them, rather than them supporting you will lead you.
But I Don’t Want to Shop Local
What? Really? Why?
There are not many places where I can buy a new router, a bathmat, some french books for the kids, and all of my christmas shopping at\ 12AM in my pajamas.
You see, there are some really good reasons people would prefer to order off an online marketplace.
It’s super easy.
You don’t have to talk to anyone.
You don’t have to get dressed.
You can keep things in your shopping cart for later.
You can buy anything.
When we surround ourselves with a community, that community in turn will go out their way to support you. But that leaves out all the people who don’t know you. People who may go out of their way to support local, and people that would rather do things on their own.
It’s so important not to forget that customers' needs are complex, and as a business you need to find ways of showing them that you meet their needs better than anyone. Look at the five points above (and there are many more), and figure out how you can meet the needs of customers who like to shop this way.
A big appeal of online is automation. While a lot of people like the extra touch of a conversation, many don’t, and if you want these customers, you’ll need to make sure that you have systems built for them. Fortunately in 2020, Shopify, Facebook, Instagram, Wix, Etsy, and more have built super easy ways for your customers to interact with your services. E-commerce is NOT just for products, and you can build in quote requests in place of actual purchases.
By creating a solid E commerce platform, you also brand yourself as being forward thinking and up to date, which appeals to everyone.
I know how hard you work. I know the extra care that goes into each product. The extra time you spend consulting, and offering your expertise for no extra charge.
You probably can’t compete on price with a product manufactured in China, but you can’t deny that it matters to customers, who still may understand the extra work you do, but won’t necessarily buy from you because of it.
This is really tough, and it hits all levels of business. Wal-Mart, the largest market in the world has built a whole brand on having the lowest price possible, and you can’t stop people from shopping there, yet, many people don’t.
Let’s go back to the idea of a Value Proposition. Wal-Mart’s is easy: Low priced, huge selection, stocks the basics of everything you need. So when it comes to purchasing a product, let’s say a cutting board, a customer is going to decide first whether they need the most basic version of it, or something higher quality. If it’s basic, they will probably head to Wal-Mart.
Now let’s say that the customer is debating getting something a little nicer, how could a custom cutting board shop convince them to spend a bit more?
The customer will have a budget, and it may or may not be realistic. If it’s way too low, then you might be better off sending them to a box store. If it’s reasonable, you need to make sure to present the product that best represents the budget they have, and meets the quality requirements to spend the extra cash. Maybe it has better materials, maybe they can personalize it, maybe it has a crazy pattern with six different types of wood.
Throughout this whole process though, you have to understand that the customer will still be conscious of price, and if your product is either too expensive, or does not meet their perceived value to spend more, that they may get sticker shock and become a ghost.
People know small businesses are going to be more expensive. If they reach out, trust that they expect to pay more. Just understand that the customer only cares so much about the work that you put into the products & service, and what really matters is what they get for what they spend. Focus instead on their value, and that sticker shock will start to disappear.
Right now it’s hard to find someone who doesn’t believe in the idea of shopping local. That’s a relief to you - a marketing term you don’t have to explain! What you do need to do is start explaining why being local provides value to your customers from the moment they first interact with you.
Take “Shop Local” to the next level. Make it about what the customer gets by shopping local. Analyze and address the reasons why someone wouldn’t want to shop local with you, and finally, be conscious that price is a major factor with all purchases, and you need to be ready to show the right amount of value.