Rediscovering your Neighbours

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Rediscovering your Neighbours

Over the last couple of decades we have been told that globalisation is the way forward. Retailing became international and China became the world�s factory, but the tide is beginning to change and now is the era of ‘Neighbour to Neighbour’ marketing. It is time to promote local. Consumers are becoming more concerned with the state of the planet, terrorism and consumerism in general and as a result are starting to stay within their community and question their everyday actions and how they affect the world. For example, researchers tell us that 25% of all gas emissions into the environment are generated through food production. At the same time 83% of British consumers say they would purchase locally sourced food if it was adequately labelled as such. This does mean that the balance of trade will change. I was recently in Capetown, South Africa where the apple growers are concerned for their future as their traditional market has been the UK and that market is now closing their doors on them. But, on a positive note, neighbourhood market opportunities mean more business for local business as long as they appreciate the rules of the game. The Consumer Will Still Require Speed of Service I recently went to a local bookshop to request a book. I was advised that it was not in stock and that they would need to order it in. This process took three weeks. Compare this with ordering a book from Amazon.com. The speed of service from a local source must match that of a global source otherwise the consumer will revert back to the global business. Speed of service, even in an environmentally sensitive world is still critically important. The Consumer Will Look for Convenience If you live in Los Angeles, London, Johannesburg or Sydney, you have the same daily concerns; example getting around a heavily congested city. Cities such as London have introduced a daily road tax to try and reduce traffic congestion. The retail trend was to build central retail hubs of box stores to provide for consumer needs. These one stop shops were a convenience a decade ago. Now, consumers are not looking on driving the car through traffic to get to mega retail complexes as a convenience. As a result the local shopping centre is being revisited. This also means the local hardware store, food outlet, pharmacy etc is the rediscovered convenience outlet. Get the retail cluster correct in your local community and the customers will come back due to the convenience. The Consumer Wants a Network Loyalty Card In the past major retailers developed loyalty cards that were unique to them. Customers joined these loyalty schemes and enjoyed the benefits. In neighbourhood retailing, the customer wants a neighbourhood loyalty card; a card that can be used in a number of local retail stores. One loyalty card could, for example, be linked between a hardware store, coffee shop, garden centre, pharmacy and independent supermarket. The concept is already finding favour around the world. In Bracknell in the United Kingdom the council and local business have joined forces to develop the �Edge� card which can be used within the community. This concept, I�m sure, will be developed by other communities. A loyalty card that provides benefits for the community must surely be a winner in the future. The Consumer Wants to Trust the Retailer Consumers want to trust the business people they are dealing with. As businesses get bigger they tend to be trusted less. This is an opportunity for small business to introduce trust strategies to develop their own business. Trust is about people. Small business will need to train their team in selling skills and product knowledge as well as introducing an empowerment policy to allow team members to make decisions in front of the customer and know that management will support them in their decision making in front of the consumer. Neighbourhood Partnering Not only should we consider neighbourhood loyalty cards, but also neighbourhood partnering. The book �Growing Local Value� by Laury Hammel and Gun Denhart (Berrett-Kuehler Publishers Inc, San Francisco, ISBN 13.978-1-57675-371-2) promotes partnering between businesses and libraries and other local institutions as a marketing tool within the community. The book discusses how Powell�s books in Portland, Oregon, USA networks with school librarians and in 2005donated 57,000 books through its �School Book Challenge�. Greg Higgins of Higgins Restaurants in the same city organises the �Farm Chef Connection� where 200 local farmers and 250 local restaurant chefs meet on a regular basis to network. As a result Higgins Restaurant�s menu contains 85% local ingredients. It is all about People Neighbourhood marketing is all about people, as I mentioned earlier, you must ensure your team want to play the game. Recent research in the USA indicated that 18.5% of consumers thought customer service had deteriorated badly in stores, 32% a little worse and 35% said it was the same. This is a total of 85.5% of the population who feel customer service is the same or has deteriorated. Imagine if yours is the store that has shown some improvement in customer service. The rewards via word of mouth marketing would be enormous. Neighbourhood retailing and marketing will be the big trend over the next few years. It does mean local businesses will have to be proactive, it will not come by default, but it will be a great opportunity.