Over the past few decades, American consumers have become very comfortable with big box stores. These are the Wal-Marts of the world, the one-stop shops that promise low prices, consistently stocked shelves and a sense of familiarity from one store to the next. This mentality has somehow managed to find its way into every aspect of American life — we have chain restaurants, big breweries and even massive websites that dominate retail. Recently, however, there has been a big push for supporting local businesses. Somewhere along the way, consumers began to value the offerings of smaller, more focused retailers and the local economy has begun to recover from the invasion of the retail giant. What happened? Why the sudden shift? It would seem there’s a major problem when it comes to the big box model and local businesses are finally finding solutions to help them compete again.
The main frustration with the threat to local economies is that all profits are typically circulated directly back into and within the area they are received. When hotshot corporations like Wal-Mart open shop, their revenue is not going directly back into their local economy; instead, it’s going back to corporate headquarters and being dispersed all over the place. You may be thinking, “If this is happening everywhere, the money is going to be circulating everywhere, right?” Well, not directly. Smaller towns are losing their once-thriving economy because the money is being taken away when it could be going right back to its home. There’s also a question of resources. Global brands have a means of destroying local competition with advertising. A local business isn’t likely to buy a Super Bowl ad or strike a deal with a soccer team to have their brand slathered over the front of the jerseys. Moreover, huge brands have done an exceptional job of being reliable, albeit predictable. You always know what you’re gonna get at McDonald’s or Best Buy. That said, things seem to be changing.
In the past few years, the public has rejected the big box lifestyle in favor of shopping local. Economic turmoil, big data and perhaps a growing sense of community have all played a part in the renaissance of local economies. Beer drinkers will tell you the craft brewery scene is so widespread that even the White House has its own home brew. Small Business Saturday is another testament to the momentum behind the shop local movement. Though the public seems to be down to hop on the bandwagon, local businesses still have to compete with seemingly ubiquitous big box stores. Sometimes local retailers are ahead and sometimes they’re behind; the race is long.
There are ways for local businesses to stay in the game, especially today. Here’s a look at some of those resources, including email marketing and social media:
Email: Let’s face it, everyone gets emails form their favorite stores. Why not be a part of that? Set up a regular emailing system that fills locals in on what you have going on, including deals, events and opportunities. You can be almost guaranteed to get a number of interested consumers subscribing to your email marketing system, which will help you get your business back in shape.
Social media: Facebook and Twitter are available to everyone and by creating new pages and accounts, you can start to advertise your business more. Become a part of the local social media community in order to increase your known presence.
Local advertisements: If larger businesses are more successful primarily due to a large presence, counter it! Advertise your local business in your local area, such as a neighborhood newspaper. Set flyers all through the most visited places around you. This not only shows your great deals and services, but also shows you have no plans for giving up.
Host events: One way to show off your brand is to show it in areas other than your business. Local shops can host events that pull the community in and create a larger known presence. Not only does this help promote your business, but it also shows the community you generally care.
Local businesses have their work cut out for them. It’s certainly easy for customers to zip into a Wal-Mart for a bottle of shampoo or eat another Big Mac for dinner. Convince those same customers that they’ll benefit from shopping with you instead, whether you make your own soaps or sell organic foods. Keep money in your community by spreading your message far and wide via email, social media and getting to know your customers personally. A friendly smile and personal connection can do a lot to pull money away from big box retailers.
Are there any other solutions we’ve left out? Have you tried something that works for your local business? Share in the comments section below!