The big brands have deep pockets and domineering presence, and pair this with free parking and low prices it is hardly surprising that customer choose them.

But for the very reasons that make the big shops attractive, they also make themselves vulnerable to shopper-savviness. The big brands are clones of each other, meaning shoppers have little reason to choose one over the other. Brand loyalty at this scale is rare and this is why the big brands are constantly working to drive their shoppers back to them. Here is a quick look at some of the strategies employed:

Free parking – Hardly a groundbreaking strategy, but nevertheless important. The point is to make the choice as easy and effortless as possible for the customer. Looking for parking and paying for it adds friction.

Brand comparison – Price wars are raging and supermarkets spend almost as much time talking about their competitors as themselves, in a bid to show the customer that they are cheaper than so and so. Some will even print their competitor’s name on the receipt!

Time-limited discounts – Some of the big supermarkets will give you a voucher along with your receipt, often with a neat little saving on your next shop. But have you ever looked at this in detail? Notice the expiry date. This has not been chosen at random, but is carefully calculated by marketeers and analysts, and is usually set to just before a customer would ‘naturally’ do their next shop. The purpose is, of course, to drive the shopper back in sooner – increasing the frequency of their visits and therefore increasing their spend.

Complex loyalty cards – The big brands all have some sort of loyalty program where customers earn points for their spend. But have you noticed the rewards? A store voucher or discount, which is what you might expect, is sidelined by rewards at other, non-competitive businesses such as restaurant vouchers, cinema tickets and online shopping vouchers. All very tempting to consumers – who feel like they are getting a special treat just for doing their everyday shopping.

Together these strategies all work towards one goal; make the customer come back more often and spending more, each time. But you don’t have to be a big brand with deep pockets to take advantage. If you can’t offer free parking, can you be flexible with your opening hours? Be the easier option for customers. Once a customer has chosen you once, you have the opportunity to turn them into regulars by offering a competitive, enjoyable experience in store.

It is no secret that Loyalzoo – our loyalty app for local shops – came about as a result of our own interests. We enjoy to shop local in our neighbourhood, and want to help these shops grow and compete against the big brands. The papers are always reporting that local businesses are closing, so shopping in them is vital to keep them, and our neighbourhoods, alive.

So what’s the problem with big brands? Well – nothing, really. Many of them offer a good range of decent quality products, their opening hours are convenient and there is usually parking on the premises. Many offer wifi in store, low prices and central locations.

So far so good. But one thing they lack is excitement and interest in themselves and their products. You will never get an employee in a global chain enthusiastically talking about where their latest product came from and why they decided to stock it. Or talk about how their latest flavour came about – as a result of their best friends’ idea and their uncle’s abundant apple-tree.

Local shops have their limitations, sure. Their opening hours aren’t always as long as we would have liked them to be, the parking may be limited. But the variety of products and the stories behind them makes it a far more interesting place than any chain shop will ever be. You can tell by talking to the staff and the atmosphere inside. If it’s a cafe – is it an in-out feel, or are people sitting down with a friend or two, chatting away and enjoying themselves? If it’s a food shop or bakery, are the people in the queue mostly huffing and puffing in stress, or are they waiting patiently? Maybe we are just very lucky – but our experience in local shops is predominantly a much more relaxed matter than that in the big shops.

We still use the big brands, of course we do. Sometimes the convenience is unbeatable. But every time, whilst we queue up in another seething line full of people cursing and oozing passive aggressiveness because it is rush hour and they are all hangry and angry at the cashier not working fast enough, we think we could have – should have – gone to the  local instead. It would have been more expensive, taken longer and finding parking would have been a pain – but being in the shop would have made us relax and lower our shoulders.

Not every local shop is like this – but many are. And none of the big ones are. So we shop local when we can and we urge you to do the same.

  1. It’s, well, LOCAL! Beats driving/sitting on a train/on a bus and paying for it right?
  2. It’s friendly. Employees are likely to actually look at you.
  3. And probably even smile
  4. And start a chat!
  5. You’ll get to see the business owner. Probably. And in most cases, they are lovely, driven people who really care about you. Hello…..mrs/mr owner of multi-million-international-store…?
  6. The products won’t be the same as everywhere else. Chances are, they’re local too – and carefully selected by the owner.
  7. Employees will know what they’re selling.
  8. Because employees in a local business tend to be a lot more than just another number in the payroll system.
  9. By shopping local, you support your local economy and contribute to the buzz and life in your community
  10. Shopping local means you help create more opportunities for young people
  11. And most of what you spend, goes to the business itself. Not the obscure conglomerate of owners or stakeholders.
  12. You won’t have to elbow your way through tourists who all like to be in one place where the only shops are super chains that can be found nearly everywhere on the planet (hello, Oxford Street).
  13. You can take your time, and ask advice. And if you have some feedback, chances are the owner will actually take the time to listen to you.

 

Tell us about your favourite local shops in the comments!

Shopping locally means supporting your neighbourhood

You may not take much notice of the shops in your local community normally, but can you imagine if they weren’t there? It would not only mean you had to travel to do any shopping, it would mean the same for your neighbours. And in turn, this would mean a outflux from the area. Fewer people, fewer children – less need for a school, medical services and transport links. Less money historically comes with more crime, more vandalism and lower employment rates.

70p per £1 spent goes straight back to the community, compared to 10-20p in a large chain

So the money you spend are put to good use. They are used towards maintaining the premises, paying wages, sourcing and stocking products, suppliers and manufacturers. It is much the same for larger chains – but they have several middle-men in between who all take a cut – meaning less of the money go to the people behind the product. Smaller shops often buy straight from the supplier – and the only stakeholders are the shop and the producer. So you know where your money goes.

Shopping locally supports the economy

More local businesses mean more local jobs, and higher employment is linked to less crime, higher levels of happiness and life satisfaction and of course, higher average income. Having jobs available in an area makes it an attractive place to live – which translates into a growing population and in turn higher demand, more shops, more jobs and higher turnovers.

Thriving local businesses means jobs, income and vitality for an area

Busy shops means busy streets – which attracts more people to live in an area. And the more people who live there, the higher the demand and the need is for nurseries, schools, parks and transport links – i.e. more jobs, more opportunities and better economy.

Between us, the team here at Loyalzoo has decades of experience working in retail; we have had our fair share of dealing with irritating, funny, weird, happy, patient, impatient, grumpy or simply wonderful customers. I, Sol that is, recently overheard the shop assistant in the local supermarket; ‘Customers are a strange breed..’ and as funny as the statement is, it is also 100% true. Here is an unofficial list of 9 things customers tend to do, which the staff may not find so amusing – based on our own experiences.

  1. Customers not acknowledging the staff when they walk in. You’ll be greeting them, all smiles and cheerfulness, and in return you get evasive glances and firmly pursed lips. Frankly – this is just rude! (It is equally bad the other way around, mind you, so shop assistants take note)
  2. Moving things around. So often, customers pick up items, carry them around, nursing them like they were newborn puppies, only to put them down at a random place before exiting the shop. Indecisive ourselves – we get it. But please put it back where you found it. Juices in the bookshelf, books in the fridge, mugs in the crisp shelves, lacey pants amongst the mens underwear – between us we have seen it all.
  3. Answering the phone whilst you’re standing at the till to pay. It is rude, not only to the person at the till, but also to the people queuing behind you as you invariably slow down the process. Either wait until the transaction is finished, or let someone else in front if you have to answer.
  4. Not listening out for your order in a coffee shop. You would be amazed at the lack of brainpower present in the pick-up spot in your average coffee shop. Calling out ‘Double Latte’ three times before a confused looking gentleman grabs it and walks out, only to come back in raging, ‘but I ordered a hot chocolate!’. Just. Listen. Please.
  5. Making a mess with sugar, salt, pepper.. The condiment bar is sweet enough, put your sugar in your drink. And use the bins provided – they’re there for a reason.
  6. Tearing up napkins/receipts/stirring sticks/lids – just leave them be. Disclaimer – I too, admit to being culpable of this when visiting my mum. But boy is it annoying when you’re the person who has to tidy up. Those little bits go Everywhere!
  7. Sneaking past you to use the toilet. Newsflash, toilet-sneakers, the vast majority of staff are nice people – if you ask nicely of course they’ll let you use the toilet. If you sneak in trying not to attract attention, you’ll get little more than poorly concealed nasty looks.
  8. Thoughtless buggy brigades – most of us like children and babies. They are cute and entertaining, but mums and dads – listen up. Control your buggies! Back in the day when I worked in a café, I’d regularly have customers walking into the café, promptly parking the buggy in the most inconvenient place ever; ie where it blocks every other customer. Ask the staff if they can help you find a place for it, they will know the best place.
  9. Crazy kids – the aforementioned warmth towards children and babies is quickly withdrawn when those chubby little fingers are prodding the sandwiches on display, or smeering babyccinos across the seats and the floor. Keep in mind that you can’t just take time off parenting when you’re in a café – the romantic idea of spending your days in cafés with a good book or a friend when you have the kids? Forget it. They need supervision.