The Quiet after the Storm

My folks are still here, and they stayed with the kids so my husband and I could go out for dinner alone.  We tried a place we’d never been before, and had a perfectly pleasant meal, quiet and without the chaos found at the local chain places during the holiday season.

A lot of  people in new media, including Chris Brogan, are talking about hyper-local content on the web.  I am certainly glad to find the small goft shops, the small restauarants in my area- the places that are off the well-trodden path.  But strangely enough, these are the same places that are least likely to adopt a new media strategy.

What I have seen is an increase in the number of small businesses, like gift shops, or other specialty merchandisers, use email to send me coupons, notices of sales, and similar promotional email.  And I love this, actually.  I went into a store I don’t frequent often, because of a 20% sale, and found some unique and special items that surprised me, and hopefully will surprise people on my holiday list as well.  But I might not have trundled on in without the email prompt.

I think the small shops can easily capture their built in audiences through this channel.  Yet if they go “full blown”, they have the opportunity to reach customers from out of town, people who have moved away, and the occassional surfer. Is this customer base substantial enough to support the infrastructure?  I am not sure many business people know.

But I know as a customer, I love the updates about store hours, about what’s new, and if there’s a sale too good to pass up.  It does generate business at the brick and mortar location, at least from me.  While I rarely visit the websites of local businesses, the direct email works for me, much more so than the same direct email I get from Circuit City or Best Buy.

What do you think about hyper-local content?  Do you engage hyper-local face to face, online, or both?  What kind of presence does a small, local business need or should they expect from a website?   How does internet integrate with hyperlocal to make a success?  how do we define success?  And if your online presence starts to dwarf your Bricks & Mortar presence, how do you justify rent??

Just curious, especially in a world where opening a bricks 7 mortar retail operation is a risky business.

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “The Quiet after the Storm

  1. I think it’s the best way to have local businesses that I care about keep me in the loop. Further, it’s a way to build a web presence that will draw people visiting nearby communities.

    For instance, The Red Barn in Merrimac, Mass, is this great fabric and yarn store that ends up being Mecca to quilters and knitters in the area. They have a website and they’re getting a little more presence because of it, but imagine if they started doing 5 minute how to videos, or even an email list to their constituency (those who have email addresses, which by the way, Seniors are the highest growing vertical on the web).

    Anyhow, you know *I* love it. Can’t wait to see what others say.

  2. I couldn’t agree more. I think people tend to shop at chain and big box stores because they’re familiar, and by reaching out through social networking, blogging, email, etc local businesses can break through that barrier. I’m hoping to expand my design business (pixelcurrents.com) after the first of the year into a more local focus, and I’ll encourage WordPress rather than static web design. Build the site with the bones to support social networking from the start.

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