Tales from the Crypt of Online Marketing 8 – The Inconvenient Side Effect of the Shop Local Movement

What local B2C businesses should focus on to stay open
Since COVID-19 burst into our lives, there have been many protests on social media about the #ShopLocal movement. I’ve been on that cheerleading team too, how about you?

But when the time comes, are you REALLY shopping locally, or are you just supporting from the sidelines as you continue to order from Amazon or some big box store in a different country, capitalizing on all the juicy sales that happen during the holiday season?

It’s okay. I think many of us are guilty, myself included.

Which brings me to why I’m writing this article…

The Dilemma of Supporting Local: Sometimes it just isn’t easy to do.

The other day we needed aside for our barbecue. We called a few local stores and no one had the part we needed.

Amazon did. And we got it the next day.

Last Saturday I was determined to support local businesses and set out to buy several gifts on my Christmas list.

In a nutshell, this is what I found:

  • I drove 45 minutes round trip to pick up a $10 item, so I was able to save a $10 shipping charge.
  • Due to COVID-19, I had to queue outside in the cold for about 10 minutes before I could get into the store and look around.
  • Across the street was another store he wanted to see. The formation was twice as long, so I scrapped that idea.
  • A store I really wanted to go to (and support) was closed at 2 pm It was 2:30 when I arrived.
  • Two of the boutiques I went to had a fraction of the inventory they normally have during the holiday season. Again, due to the pandemic, they had to remove the shelves from the center aisle to accommodate social distancing.
  • Another small specialty store only allowed one customer in at a time and there were two people in front of me. I was running out of time, so I went back to my car.
  • And don’t get me started on the stress of dealing with traffic jams and finding parking…

I was out for four hours, doing my best to support the locals, but damn it wasn’t convenient at all! Not to mention how exhausted I was when I got home.

Now, in the spirit of full transparency, I went to a big box store and guess what?

There are no lines out the door due to the sheer size of the store.

I found exactly what I wanted.

I also found a 30% off coupon on my phone while in line that I used for my purchase.

And I was in and out in a few minutes.

It’s hard for small local businesses to compete with that.

But they’re going to have to if they want to survive.

Big box stores, including Amazon, offer the selection and competitive prices that they do because they have the infrastructure to support those value-based initiatives.

And it’s not like this is part of a “new” economy, either.

When I was a kid, we didn’t have the internet, but we did have mail order. Remember that gloriously thick Sears Christmas wish book that came in the mail?

My dad sat with my brother and I as we perused the toy section, passing around our favorites in gleeful anticipation of what would open on Christmas morning.

Mind you, fulfilling that wish list wasn’t as convenient as it is now.

Today the consumer only needs to buy from the comfort of their home and that’s it! The gifts arrive a few days later, ready to be wrapped and placed under the tree.

As a small business (particularly a brick and mortar company), how can you compete with that?

Here are some ideas to consider:

Think in terms of value. What can you bring to the table that your customer can’t get in a big box online store or on Amazon?

Consider these areas of focus for your clients:

  • Customer service. The more personalized you can be, the better.
  • Uniqueness of the product. What do you have that a) can’t be found anywhere else and b) is a great substitute for what they would have bought elsewhere?
  • Quality. METERohAll the time, price determines quality. Cheaper prices mean lower quality. It is difficult to compete on price, can you compete on quality?
  • Convenience. How can you make it MORE convenient to shop with you than on Amazon? For example, can you offer the same amenities that Amazon likes?
    • Easy to use
    • Sale prices
    • Free/low cost shipping
    • Fast delivery

Always think about the perceived value that your company offers, as that is what consumers base their purchasing decisions on.

For people to support the local shopping movement, the products or services must be of equal or greater quality/value than what is offered by Amazon or other large online entities.

COVID-19 has definitely had a big impact on small businesses, especially traditional ones that rely on local customers. The domino effect of this pandemic has already been and will continue to be enormous.

If ever there was a time to take a hard look at your business model, it’s now!

You need to find creative ways to take on e-commerce sites, which will only become more prevalent and competitive as the pandemic progresses.

For the success of your business,


1. Article: The ‘buy local’ message is everywhere, but it’s hard to resist sales during a pandemic. By CBCNews

2. Article: Wondering how to increase holiday sales with COVID-19 and what seasonal marketing strategy to use? Read 4 tips for marketing your small business locally (on our website)

3. Article – If you have a store business or offer a service within a geographic area, focus your website marketing efforts on local SEO techniques like these: How to Optimize Your Website for Local Search

4. Articles: How to Shop Local and Responsibly During COVID-19 and 5 Benefits of Buying Local by BC Small Businesses.