The End of Local Business

The sky resembling a planet as seen from space.

I was shopping in Trespass in Dun Laoghaire Shopping Centre last weekend. It’s an outdoor adventure store just like The Great Outdoors, except it’s family run. As I was taking my change at the till the store owner thanked me for “shopping locally”. Not unusual in itself, but it really got me thinking about how the notion of shopping locally is dying.

It’s a lovely thought, but unfortunately the truth is that many business who continue to think locally are suffering, and things will continue to get worse for them until they start to think bigger.

The Web is changing everything and all businesses, including yours needs to recognise this, learn about it, think of the changes they need to make and then act accordingly.

Thinking globally needs to be at the core of your business strategy, because simply put, it’s at the core of your competitors’. And your competitors aren’t just down the road anymore, they’re everywhere. They’re all across the country, throughout the EU, in the US, and you can be sure that they’ll be opening in China in no time at all.

Competition used to be a geographic problem. You competed with businesses in your area and those that operated elsewhere weren’t a threat. They sold to a different market. But the web changes things. It breaks down the walls and allows your competitors from all over the world to sell to your customers and take them off you from right under your nose.

The only way you can compete is to start thinking as big as they are, and that means selling online. Whether it’s software or sportswear, you’re new market is a global one, which let’s face it, is a really really great thing. But it comes with one caveat, and it’s a huge one.

When you sell globally, you need to be the best in the world at whatever it is you do. Think about that. It’s a game changer. You won’t get business anymore simply by being convenient for your customer. Your shoppers are online, every online store is convenient for them. The next. They can just as easily buy from an overseas wholesaler in Dalian, China. The only way to appeal to them is by being better then the competition. In different industries that means different things. Mostly it’s about getting the basics right. Providing great value, incredible customer service, delivering on time and generally making your customers happy.

The phenomenon of the Web means that anyone can compete globally. It’s a massive opportunity. There are loads of amazing books covering this topic (checkout Tribes, Crush It and Rework), but my main point here is that the easiest way to compete globally is to pick a niche. Big plays are risky because you’re competing with the big boys in those spaces. Taking on the Google’s and Amazon’s of this world sounds risky. Better to pick a niche. That way you can absolutely kill it without having to compete against established businesses with more money than sense.

If I was the owner of Trespass, I’d be looking at ways to bring my business further online. Then beyond that I’d be looking at ways to differentiate myself from other outdoor adventure stores. Being so close to two prestigious sailing clubs (The Royal St. George and The Royal Irish Yacht Club) perhaps they could reposition themselves as the absolute authority on sailing equipment and clothing? They could setup a new online store selling just sailing gear. They could blog about the Volvo Ocean Race, and other huge sailing competitions, they could start commenting on the gear that the professionals are wearing on each race and then offer links to their website where that same gear could be purchased. The options are endless.

That’s scary, it’s different and it’s risky. It’ll completely change their business model. Sure they’ll still be an outdoor adventure store, but they’ll be selling globally instead of locally, and if a local customer does happen to buy from them at least they’ll still have their doors open in years to come so they can still say ‘thanks for shopping locally’ every now and again.

 

Image Source:  Bordered by the entrance to the North Hollywood Metro station, the sky resembles a planet as seen from space in this Aug. 22 photo by Romeo Doneza.

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