“Buy Local” campaigns communicate convincing reasons why residents should shop or dine at locally-owned stores, including support of the local economy and reduction of environmental footprint, since buyers don’t have to travel as far to make purchases or dine out. The campaigns emphasize that local company employees usually know your name and make shopping or dining at their business a far more personal and satisfying experience.
What many campaigns fail to point out is that local business owners include retail, restaurant, automotive and service franchisees of larger, nationwide chains. These local franchised businesses are local, too; they hire local employees, buy local products, pay local taxes and support the local community. While it can be important to work in our communities to give independent businesses our support, it is also worth remembering local franchise operators.
Most buy-local community campaigns emphasize that local businesses are more likely to know your name and provide personalized service. While this is often true, it is an over-generalization to say that independent businesses consistently offer better service than franchised businesses. In his Forbes post Is Shop Local Just Lazy Marketing? Scott Gross, author of “Positively Outrageous Service”, points out that the most important factor is what customers experience at each location. He argues that the mere fact of local ownership or part of large, nationwide chain is not enough to predict the type of service that customers will encounter.
We think that buy-local campaigns can backfire on an independent business. When communities tout buy-local campaigns to support locally-owned independent businesses, boasting better service at local independent businesses, they serve to raise the bar of expectations in the minds of customers. If your business is not a franchisee and expectations are high, your customers are expecting great things from your organization. Time to make sure you can deliver.
Most customers shop where they feel welcome, and they want to return when employees deliver a unique experience at a fair price. Most consumers consider the overall customer experience, along with price, to formulate their idea of value. At Confero, our work with local independent businesses, regional growth companies and national firms means we see this issue from all sides. We think Scott Gross is right: it’s all about the customer experience at each location, not who owns the location that makes the difference.