In 2009, Santa Monica’s Buy Local program was created by the City of Santa Monica, Downtown Santa Monica, Inc. along with other representatives of the Santa Monica business community to raise awareness of the benefits of shopping, eating, and playing locally.
Now, three years later, the program’s Executive Committee wanted to measure the program’s effectiveness by reaching out directly to its core constituents and surveying them about the overall value of the program.
At the end of 2011, more than 100 businesses participated in a survey conducted by Santa Monica-based firm, Stampede, the Boston Research Group and Research Data Technologies, and the results were very enlightening.
The Buy Local Executive Committee has now utilized the feedback to develop a next-steps plan for 2012/13 that specifically addresses the issues raised.
More than 440 Santa Monica-based businesses – including restaurants, retailers, cafes, salons, and bookstores – currently participate in the Buy Local program.
Of those, 104 completed surveys about why they participate in Buy Local, indicating what they find valuable about the program, which initiatives are most helpful, and their likelihood to recommend the program to other local businesses.
The results indicated that the areas in which businesses thought Buy Local has been the most valuable were networking, building awareness, targeting new audiences, and strengthening customer loyalty.
When asked the top reasons for joining Buy Local, 83 percent of the participating businesses cited a desire to increase their visibility in the community.
They also saw the Buy Local SM campaign as a vital tool in raising awareness of the need to support local business.
By far the most important target audience in their eyes is the Santa Monica resident.
This feedback helped to reinforce Buy Local SM’s emphasis on raising awareness via ads and articles in the local papers, City TV spotlights, social media outreach efforts, and partnerships with Santa Monica high school students.
“Based on the feedback we received from the survey, we were able to work with the Buy Local Committee to develop some exciting new initiatives that will specifically address these key areas,” said Debbie Lee, Vice President, Downtown Santa Monica, Inc. “In the coming months we will be implementing a series of new program elements that will help to further raise awareness of Buy Local businesses and the importance of shopping locally.”
New initiatives will include:
· Networking: Buy Local will be creating a new Business-to-Business newsletter that will be emailed out bi-monthly to all Buy Local businesses containing helpful information, calendar/program/event updates and business highlights. The goal is to bring local merchants together, providing them with opportunities to work collectively and increase the impact of their marketing efforts.
· Building Awareness: Pole Banners: Buy Local is launching an exciting new banner program, starting with Buy Local light pole banners on Third Street Promenade. These banners will rotate to different parts of the City throughout the year. The first sets were originally displayed along Main Street in front of City Hall. Buy Local Expo: Plans are also underway for the 2nd annual Buy Local Expo on March 17. City Council will be asked to declare the 17th-18th as the official “Buy Local SM Weekend.” Events will include a citywide Buy Local sidewalk sale, something 73 percent of the survey respondents indicated as being valuable to them.
· Targeting New Local Audiences: Buy Local will be sponsoring segments of the popular City TV spot, “Tour de Feast.” These segments, produced and hosted by Michael Ryan, highlight local restaurants and gourmet dining experiences. It will also continue to work in partnership with Business Improvement District (BID) partners to spotlight individual businesses that help make Santa Monica unique.
· Strengthening Existing Customer Loyalty: Buy Local is continuing to work with the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District (SMMUSD) and the Education Foundation to create programs that teach students about the value of Buying Local. It is also continuing program work with SAMOHI, encouraging students to blog about their favorite Buy Local businesses and reach out to non-Buy Local businesses to encourage sign-up. To read the latest student blogs, visit: buylocalsantamonica.com/buylocalchallenge.
“The survey indicated that people thought events and community outreach efforts were among the core strengths of the Buy Local program,” said Laurel Rosen, President, Santa Monica Chamber. “Last year, we kicked off Buy Local Day with the Buy Local Expo, and were thrilled to see so many people turn out to support their community. This year’s Buy Local Expo will be even bigger and better! We look forward to spreading the Buy Local message even further to the 10,000 people attending on L.A. Marathon weekend.”
Participating Buy Local businesses were also surveyed about the current issues they face and their optimism about the future. The single biggest problem they face is poor sales, however 71% were optimistic that sales would increase over the next 12 months. This feedback is consistent with retail survey data nationwide. Businesses recognize the importance of customer loyalty. Seventy-one percent (71 percent) indicated that their sales come from existing (i.e. repeat) business.
“We will continue to work with and support our Buy Local SM businesses in their efforts to boost sales and encourage customer loyalty from our residents and local employees,” said Jennifer Taylor, Chair of Buy Local SM campaign/ Economic Development Administrator, City of Santa Monica.
“We are excited by the growth of the campaign. In just one year, we’ve boosted membership by 70 percent,” Taylor said. “The more local businesses that sign up and actively participate in this free campaign, the greater the awareness will be in our community about the importance of buying local. It really does make a difference. We’re optimistic about the future for our businesses and our local economy.”
For more information, please visit www.buylocalsantamonica.com.