The local store must go deep to understand their shoppers. Only then can they deliver an experience that brings them into the heart of their community.

Blake Gladman, KAM Media


I had a fantastic night on Wednesday this week, up in Glasgow, at the SLR Rewards. Even the monsoon rain that night couldn’t dampen the spirits of those in attendance and it was a delight to share the joy of all the independent retailers who scooped up prizes. Particularly pleased for UIG Community Shop, winning the ‘Community Involvement Retailer of the Year’. I was honoured to be a guest judge for the awards and I remember from the day of judging that this particular store stood out from the start.

I’ve also recently been performing my new adjudicatory role at the recent Retail Industry Awards judging process a few weeks ago, and again one of the categories our group presided over was for the ‘Independent Community Retailer of the Year’. In both of these instances it’s been interesting to witness the real gamut of entries and what independent retailers believe being an ‘award winning’ community retailer really means.


Community starts with understanding who your shoppers are


Ten years ago, I think you could be pretty satisfied that a donation to a local charity or sponsoring the local football team would put a big green tick in the ‘community’ column and consider it job done. However, as with everything, time has moved on and the world has evolved. To really be a part of the local community you have to really be a part of the local community. It starts with understanding who your shoppers are. What’s important to them. Not in terms of a shopping experience but in terms of who they are as people.

We have to connect with shoppers on a personal and emotional level. This is the only way to truly win hearts and minds. This is where something as simple as the Waitrose charity donation token works so well. Not only does it give shoppers a choice of which good cause they want to support in their local area, it also gives Waitrose information to help them understand the types of issues that matter most to their shoppers.


Passion, authenticity and credibility


I’m a strong believer that you have to have passion in order to become a true community retailer. It has to be authentic. Nurturing and maintaining authenticity are a sure-fire way to gain credibility and loyalty. More importantly, a lack of authenticity or worse – trying to fake it – is a one-way ticket to the bottom. Donating money to a local charity, although worthy, is the easy solution. It ticks the box, but it doesn’t go outside it. Spending time and effort is worth so much more. Being out in the community, speaking to shoppers, understanding their lives and the challenges they face.  Spending time to help support them – this is the true side of what community really means.

Let’s not forget that what’s good for the community is also good for business. For, fundamentally, we all like to spend more time with people we like, respect and who share the same values as us. It’s no different when it comes to the companies we choose to spend our time and money with. Actively engaging with the local community and pro-actively contributing to good causes and publicly driving home your ethical credentials are a great way to show your customers that you are a business that they should want to do business with.


Take your customers on the journey with you


If you’re not there yet but have a desire to get there, then don’t worry. Start the journey now and make sure you share that journey with your customers. They want the real you, warts and all. This is key – customers know we live in a world that isn’t perfect so to see a retailer (or manufacturer for that matter) that operates within a perfect world immediately rings alarms bells and gives off an aura of inauthenticity. The way to truly connect today’s shopper is to embrace the challenges you face, embrace the mistakes you make and to celebrate your successes with them. Just as a friend would do.

For any local business worth their salt, community has to be part of the DNA. It must inform and inspire everything that they do. Only then will you truly be part of the community and win the trust of shoppers. Once you build trust you build loyalty. Which, in today’s super competitive world, you have to grab with both hands and hold on tight.


KAM Media provide research with purpose through consumer research, insights and content creation to the hospitality and grocery retail industries. Discover some of the companies we’ve recently supported.

Blake Gladman

Hi, I'm Blake, Strategy & Insight Director at KAM. I look after all our research products and manage the collection and delivery of insight throughout KAM. I love long runs and good food (the perfect life balance).