While there are many reasons to be glad that 2020 is behind us, there are a few benefits that emerged from it – such as more potential for working from home, an accelerated transition to and appreciation of digital capabilities, and a greater awareness of important social issues. Beyond all that, though, there was another bonus for many entrepreneurs: the increased tide of support for small businesses and local shops.

 

The Rise (and Results) of #SupportLocal

As Canada entered the first round of pandemic lockdowns in March, and many big-box stores experienced shortages, a movement started to circulate online. Rather than giving even more money to the big companies that could weather a shutdown, people decided to seek out and support the smaller, mom-and-pop, local businesses that were experiencing the worst effects. Hashtags like #SupportLocal were trending. By the beginning of April 20, the search term “support small business” was surging in popularity. In the process, many people found new hidden gems and favorites, and discovered the benefits of personalized customer service.

The result of this? Many communities, businesses, and organizations launched social media and digital campaigns to capitalize on this wave of support. They pointed to the huge profits of giants like Wal-Mart and Amazon, who saw a 37% increase in profits by Q3 of 2020 even as hundreds of small businesses closed, and tried to redirect public sentiment toward the underdogs that needed it the most. In turn, many of these small businesses had to quickly change tactics, learn new technology, and create new offerings in order to stay competitive – and to help solidify that strong community connection that makes all the difference to many shoppers.

 

Finding The Best Local Shops

So as a shopper wanting to support your community, what can you do to find the best yours has to offer? A good start is to get an app like Shop, which scans Shopify-enabled retailers to match you with those that are close to you – you don’t even have to leave your home to show your support.

If you’re unable to walk in or take advantage of services during ongoing restrictions, another excellent alternative is to buy gift cards. These make great gifts for others, or they’re simply a good way to help out your neighbours while investing in the future of your community. With all of the differing laws and regulations in place at the moment, many small businesses also have promotions or other enticing deals on these cards, or other items and services. Ask your friends, family, coworkers, and online communities to see if they have any recommendations, too.

 

How to Attract Local Shoppers

If you’re a small business owner, wondering how you can get more people to focus their attention your way and earn their spending power, there are some tactics you can use to boost your profile.

1. An online store is a must.

Whether for products or services, B2B or B2C, there should be a way for potential customers to interact with your business on the web. With everyone shopping and buying more online, this is one of the most effective ways to capitalize on the momentum of changing consumer behaviour. Most people want to support you, if you give them the means to do it, so if you don’t have an online store set up already – or at the very least some way to entice people to follow through after visiting your site and socials – that should be addressed first. Platforms like Shopify are excellent for this, focusing on local businesses with an easy learning curve as you get started.

 

2. Stay relevant and flexible.

What worked yesterday for marketing might not work today, or tomorrow. Your bare-minimum add-ons like promotions, BOGO deals, and free delivery are good, but it will pay off to think about how you can add other extra enticements in a fresh and creative way. Keep up with trends and be ready to try something new if you have to – if you can generate interest in a way that’s authentic to your brand values, you’ve got yourself a long-term winning strategy.

 

3. Reach audiences where they are.

Get on social media and get out in the community. Find out where your best potential customers will be, and reach out to them with a good digital strategy – one that will drive traffic to your site or store via SEO, digital advertising, and email marketing. This is an extremely effective method of getting new business, but it involves using robust and accurate data to your advantage. So…

 

4. Use data to your advantage!

Understanding the specific demographics of your best customers can be done in great detail with data analytics and tools online. You can know who clicks on your ads, who opens your e-blasts, who has browsed your online store, and much more. It can take some time to set up, but the insights really pay off more than almost anything else.

 

5. Be proactive in the community.

Your customers are – literally – your friends and neighbours. When it’s safe to do so, physically get out there and make some new connections. Support local teams and businesses, show what your values are, and make yourself known. That kind of foundational work can make a big impact for people who love the place they live.

 

We’re in an unprecedented business environment, and making sense of it takes more resources than usual. If you find yourself struggling to find the best way forward, reach out and let us know how we can help!