Most independent retailers fully understand the impact of a customer coming into your store, browsing all the aisles, asking questions, getting information, then walking out and buying the item online.
We know how that action, beyond killing your own business, is also eroding the local workforce, the local tax base, and the local economy. We know how our own communities are struggling to make ends meet, how police & fire departments are being gutted, how budgets for schools and education are being slashed.
We know how tough it is to pay your sales people to be a showroom for some out-of-town, faceless Internet site. It demoralizes the staff to do all that work and not get the sale. And they know that without the sale you won't be able to pay them for much longer.
We get all that.
The customer doesn't.
There are only two reasons for this. The customer doesn't know or the customer doesn't care.
The Customer Doesn't Know
One way we have failed our customers is by not letting them know the positive impact they make on our community when they shop with us. We have not educated them that they are supporting jobs in their neighborhood, they are supporting the tax base that pays for their protection and their education and they are making the community stronger when they shop local.
The best way to educate our customers is one at a time. Thank each and every customer who chooses to shop with you for making a positive impact in your community. Engage each customer with a positive message about how together you are making your town a better place to live.
If you choose to post any messages, either on your website, Facebook, in your advertisements, or in the store, make sure they are positive about all you (and they) can do to make the quality of life in your area better.
The Customer Doesn't Care
But do remember that the message, no matter how positive, will not resonate with everyone. Most of your customers are too absorbed in their own worries and cares to even give a single thought to the impact of their decisions. Don't lose sleep over them.
Just remember to always keep your message positive. A positive message may not change the mind of these customers, but a negative one will make them feel bad about your store - something you never want to do.
Most retailers get it. Most customers do not. We have a lot of work to do. Just keep it positive.
PS One way to make the message positive... "Thank You for Shopping Local. Today you made our city a better place to live." At its best, it will get customers to engage you in conversation. If nothing else, it will make them feel good about shopping with you. And that is always a good thing.
PPS But if you use that phrase, you better back it up. Pay your staff more than your competitors. Give more to your local non-profits. And get involved in your community. It is a two-way street after all.