Buy local campaigns finding new tools
While many "buy local" campaigns seem to rely on a sticker in a window or a rare event-driven day (American Express Small Business Saturday), loyalty cards, gift cards and community websites are emerging to throw wider support to the cause.
None of the initiatives are widespread and some are brand new, but here are a few notable examples:
- Gift cards: "Open loop" gift cards are being offered in San Francisco, Oakland, Madison, Boulder, Portland, OR, and Portland, ME. Gift cards with allotments from $5.00 to $500.00 "can be spent at a large variety of merchants, and only at those select merchants," according to the buoylocal.com website serving Portland, ME.
- Loyalty cards: Go Local is a loyalty card website that’s currently been established in around a dozen cities, including Boston, Chicago, New Orleans, Austin and Sonoma. Members gain "instant rewards just for frequenting your favorite local shops" while independent stores can customize offers "to bring more loyal customers through the door."
- Community e-tail website: The E.Vil Mall website congregates a bunch of independent stores in the East Village in downtown Manhattan into an e-commerce store. Home to the defunct CBGBs, the late Andy Warhol, and early eastern hippie culture, the website name — evilmall.com — plays up the area’s anti-capitalist vibe.
While other areas appear to equally gain some benefit from their memorable neighborhoods and iconic local shops, the just-launched E.Vil Mall website believes it is positioned to particularly benefit from its reputation as the "center of counterculture in New York."
The East Village serves 65,000 students attending NYU, Cooper Union, The New School as well as another "young professionals, a bevy of celebrities, immigrants, street kids, and old-timers." But a big part of the opportunity is reaching those who have left the neighborhood.
"Part of our core audience is what I call ‘East Village alumni’ — people who used to live here but have since moved upstate to start a family," website founder, Jonathan Hollinger, told the New York Post.
Marketing messages behind the initiatives can add more meaning to the principle of shopping local. They include keeping money in the local economy, preserving a city’s diversity and distinctive flavor, lessening the eco-impact of travel, and tapping the know-how of those who understand the community’s needs better than major conglomerates.
As Go Local’s marketing efforts states, "To a local business owner, a customer isn’t just another face in the crowd, but a neighbor — somebody they might run into walking their dog around Town Lake or taking their kid to ukulele practice."
- E.Vil Mall
- The E.Vil Mall Brings a Taste of The East Village in NYC to Internet Shoppers – E.Vil Mall
- The East Village is just a click away for online shoppers – New York Post
- Buoy Local
- Oakland Grown Gift Cards
- Go Local
- Go Local Austin
Do gift cards, loyalty cards or community websites offer the most potential for independents to support “buy local” efforts? What do you see as the pros and cons of each option?