The glue that connects all communities

By Daniel Todaro, Managing Director at Gekko

By riding a crest of goodwill, utilising new digital channels and tapping into the networks of big brands, independent retailers can punch above their weight and directly appeal to their local customers, boosting sales and awareness…

Independent retailers have long faced competition on multiple fronts. The big threat for many years were the big chains gobbling up the high street. Now that threat has moved online with digital pure play sites like Amazon eroding market share. The truth is, not many customers are particularly sentimental about the plight of some of the bigger chains in trouble. However, the threat to local stores from the likes of Amazon and omni-channel retailers has been met with much more concern from the public and big brands.

A series of initiatives have sprung up in defence of these traditional bastions of the high street, from ‘Independent Record Store Day’ to ‘Independent Retailer Month’. Additionally, reports from organisations like the New Economic Foundation have highlighted the benefits to local communities from spending in independent shops versus bigger stores or online. These messages have cut through. A survey last year by Pure 360 found that consumers are three times more likely to shop in independent stores than large shops in the next five years.

This approach has been noted by large brands that have started to latch onto this trend to boost their own credentials and bottom line by supporting local independent retail. Visa chose to focus its Christmas campaign on local heroes and independent stores. Visa’s focus was on switching the focus of the traditional format of a Christmas marketing campaign, from what people are buying or who they are buying for, to where they are buying things from. American Express did its bit, too, with a ‘Shop Local’ campaign that rewarded AMEX customers with a £5 statement credit for shopping in local independent stores.

Embrace digital content

The digital revolution may represent a major threat to independent retailers in terms of competition, it also represents a huge opportunity in terms of marketing. Independent retailers have always had

an intuitive understanding of their customers and this can be bolstered by digital channels. While local newspapers may be closing, local newspaper websites are seeing more growth than ever in readers. The explosion of smartphones has also led to a huge increase in the figures accessing local radio and content, another great route for independents to get their messages out.

This is not to mention social media, both paid and organic with the ability to offer a micro-targeting strategy and hyper local personalisation, enabled by both Facebook and Google. Clued-up retailers are seeing the benefit of connecting with increasingly online communities springing up.

Seek out support

In electronics particularly, many product brands are wising up to the opportunity and skill that local independents possess. A great example of this is Freeview. The Freeview Retail Development Team is a strategic field team, supporting independent retailers across the UK. The team is unique in that it does not sell a specific product for a specific brand. Instead, the team supports all Freeview (including Freeview, Freeview HD and Freeview Play) enabled products across all brands and stores.

Where some brand teams are selective in their retail support, the RDE team’s brand independence means they can offer the best possible service for independent retailers, cooperating with OEM brands such as Panasonic, Humax, LG and Toshiba to deliver up-to-date training on all products and services.

As well as assisting retailers through training, the Freeview team also supports independents with local marketing campaigns, in the past having managed localised radio, press and social media campaigns supporting selected retailers with a Freeview focus.

Through long-term training support, local marketing campaigns and regular visits to ensure all staff are knowledgeable on all aspects of the brand, they help to ensure that independents are the destination of choice for Freeview customers. They understand the fact that independents can provide the glue that connects local communities.

By focusing on their strengths, connecting with these bigger brands and tapping into the needs of their customers through targeted local advertising, independent retailers can grow as a destination of choice for customers and become their local hero.