How hyper-localisation can help de-risk the multi-outlet model, AND create social impact

Local differentiation, a winning strategy

We’re only too aware of how high-street retail and the restaurant trade has been suffering over the past few years. Jamie’s wasn’t a great surprise, let’s face it, it was never that good, and they repeated the same ‘never-that-good’ in countless high-rent high-street venues across the land.

I was sitting in a lovely roadside pub-restaurant near Oxford the other day. They’d done it really well. Good food, very attentive service, sympathetic interior – very tasteful. All-in-all a very good country-esk pub/restaurant.

This pub was part of a larger group. If this one was anything to go by, I’m sure they are doing very well. But what struck me was that as good as it was, this, and probably most national chains, are missing a trick. This particular pub-restaurant, although occupying a locally historic building, could have been put in any semi-rural middle-class location and it would have done well – but how can we take this to another level? And can we remove some of the risks inherent in the multi-outlet model.

Hyper-localisation is a way to de-risk the downside of being the same everywhere

We hear about international companies trying to localise their offering to a national market, but we hear much less about the importance of localising an offer to the town or neighbourhood level. There are some good examples where the local management is allowed a lot of local latitude – Timpsons or Robert Dyas are two who ‘get’ local autonomy. I guess other companies have a brand, a way of doing things, and want to avoid the risk of doing them wrong, of losing control over quality. Maybe another way to look at this is that hyper-localisation is a way to de-risk the downside of being the same everywhere.

What is hyper-local (isation)?

Well firstly, it’s important to recognise the distinguishing features of a locality. These may include its:

  • History (including the very human history)
  • Local environmental and geographical features
  • The community
  • The cultural aspects
  • Local organisations (from businesses to schools and churches)
  • The strengths and weakness of that locality
  • Local food
  • Local production

Hyperlocalistion is all about embracing this distinctively, acknowledging it, and then acting upon it in a way that adds value to that local community. Businesses should take a leadership role in this, after all you’ve been given the privilege of being able to serve that community and profit from its patronage.

The hyperlocal detail will give you a long list of ways you can shape your proposition and engage with that community. It helps create a conversation and interaction. It demonstrates that you are interested and that you understand. Ultimately it builds loyalty. And as we all know locally based businesses thrive off longer term relationships and loyalties.

Hyper-local (isation) offers huge opportunities

People are genuinely fed up with the same offering repeated over and over again. Yes, they like the quality, but they would like some level of differentiation – and for that differentiation to matter to them. People relate to their locality – they identify with it. Imagine being truly able to bring all the good things of a chain, along with the appealing qualities of a local independent business sensitive to that communuty and then imagine being able to create real local social impact. Imagine what that hyper-localisation would do for your staff morale.

What might this mean in practice?

What if the chain restaurant running the local inn served a good selection of local craft ales, holds events celebrating the local culture, sources food from local suppliers, embraces the local history, features photographs, drawings and poems from local artists.

What if the high street coffee shop could throw open its doors to local community groups to offer somewhere to meet or promote themselves, or if it organises a local makers market just outside or displays local art on its walls. What if it got behind an locally important campaign (contentious maybe).

What if the local supermarket chain understands where the local community most needs its support, and focuses efforts on that instead of a token show of community engagement. So often we see high-streets dying on their feet, and some of the large chains standing by watching their local market suffer without getting sufficiently involved in being the solution to the problem in that locality. It’s such an obvious business opportunity, and such an obvious win-win.

They’ll love it

Hyper-localisation is all about going that step further. Not being scared to trust your local people – giving them the brief to go out there and engage in a meaningful way with the locality. It’ll mean getting more of the local team engaged in local community initiatives – but they’ll love it.

Start with Local

The wonderful thing about all this is that its dead easy to try things out in one locality and scale the principles and lessons of those that work across your entire business.

We’d loved to speak with you about how we can help you and your organisation see things in a hyper-local way. We can help you set up an authentic approach to engaging locally that goes above and beyond a local noticeboard or a token scheme. Above all we can help you create genuine local social impact.

Why are we interested in this? Well, helping our national businesses increase their local impact is yet another step towards to developing resilient confident communities.

Simeon Linstead

Founder and CEO of Start with Local.

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