June 2014
Looking for Local By Pete Mihalek

Before heading out to make a purchase, consumers turn to the Internet — on their smartphone. Will they find you?

Let’s set the scene: A young married couple just moved into their first home in a big new city. The boxes are unpacked and things are starting to come together … on the inside. The landscape, however, needs plenty of TLC. So they hop in their car and decide to buy a little bit of everything — annuals, shrubs, soil, mulch, containers, you name it.

These are new customers you’d love to call your own. But there’s a snag. When they search for “plants” on their smartphones, your garden center’s name gets pushed to the bottom of the search results, crowded out by a handful of big box stores.

Bill Brunelle, executive director of Independent We Stand (IWS), says it doesn’t have to be that way. Brunelle and his IWS team recently launched a mobile app that delivers “the only independent business search engine of its kind.”

“This is a tool for travelers and locals alike, giving people the opportunity to find the locals’ favorites or discovering a business they didn’t know existed,” Brunelle says.

To use the app, simply enter into the search bar “garden center” or “roses” and only applicable locally owned businesses will populate the search results based on the proximity to your given location. The app collates its results by first scouring the database of those local businesses registered on IndependentWeStand.org. Then it searches the Google Places database.

Backed with support from major sponsors STIHL and Chrysler Group, Brunelle says Independent We Stand is also using an aggressive public relations campaign along with social media marketing to get the word out about this new digital tool.

Applying the App

Is your jury still out on the importance of an app like this? Here are some fun facts that will hopefully push you to be a little more cognizant (if you aren’t already) of a smartphone’s power to direct new customers your way.

According to the New York Times and Chetan Sharman Consulting, “U.S. mobile Internet traffic nearly doubled in 2013.” That’s expected to double again in 2014. Additionally, Yelp Research shows,”85 percent of consumers use the internet to find local businesses.”

And in its 2013 Independent Business Survey, the Institute for Local Self-Reliance found, “Small businesses in cities with active ‘buy local’ campaigns reported sales growth of 7 percent on average, while businesses in communities without buy local campaigns reported an average growth of just 2.3 percent.”

Brunelle says the motivation behind building the new IWS mobile app is simple, “We thought it was important to take consumers’ demand for a hyper local search and move it to a mobile platform.

“It helps even the playing field and it gives that small retailer another opportunity to get in front of consumers that actually want to support and shop at locally owned businesses.”

In addition to registering with Independent We Stand and making sure your business is set up on Google Places, Brunelle offers up one more piece of advice:

“Embrace your status as a locally owned business. Change all of your marketing materials to say you are locally owned. People will seek you out. They will drive farther.”

*Independent We Stand is a cause marketing campaign that has grown into a movement of independent businesses all working to educate consumers on the importance and strong economic benefits of “buying local.” To learn more about Independent We Stand, register your business and see the app in action, please visit IndependentWeStand.org. The app is available for both iPhone and Android phones.







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