In a bid to increase its membership and drive more consumers to local retailers, Think Local First is putting power in people’s hands.
The Greater Victoria organization, which has 195 businesses in its ranks, unveiled a smartphone app Tuesday that will showcase its members and guide local consumers and tourists to both hidden gems and well-known retailers in the region.
“I live in the land of 30 year-olds and they live on their phones, and the traditional means of communication don’t work very well anymore,” said Paul Hadfield, owner of Spinnakers Brewpub and president of Think Local First. “We needed to find a way to help us connect ourselves with the public, both the resident and travelling public.”
Through the B.C. Economic Development Association, Think Local came across an app designed by Washington state-based 468 Communications.
Hadfield hailed the app as a “huge opportunity from a marketing perspective,” noting it’s easy to use, transparent and inclusive.
All 195 members, and all their locations, will be included on the app, with each getting a short write-up that can be filtered by geography and category.
Hadfield said the geo-tracking is so fine within the app that it can drive traffic within his own pub to the beer store inside by offering rewards.
He said the geo-tracking enables users to see what is local and close to where they are and for businesses to market to and reward users for coming to their premises.
The app is branded by Think Local First, which can set up, manage and update information through a control panel. Think Local also has access to the app’s back-end to offer insight into where consumers are from and what places they visit.
Those metrics are key to the membership, said Michele Hamilton, managing director of Think Local. “People collecting rewards were the only way we had before [to determine efficiency of the Think Local program] and that was only for those businesses that were participating in the rewards program,” she said. “Now everyone is on the app, regardless of them handing out rewards.
“I feel that once our members get ahold of it, they are going to see the value in having it.”
Hadfield said he could envision Think Local doubling the number of members within the year.
“From the beginning, we decided this was such a great membership benefit that Think Local was going to find some way of funding it,” Hamilton said of the app.
They have partnered with Vancity credit union to cover the cost of the app, administration and marketing.
“It's a wonderful opportunity to collaborate with an organization dedicated to supporting local businesses and keeping Greater Victoria a vibrant, sustainable community,” said Andrea Di Lucca Bustard, Vancity’s community investment manager. “An important part of a healthy community is a strong local economy.
“We saw an opportunity to work with Think Local First, which is playing an important role supporting the ecosystem of small businesses in the region.”
Hadfield said that notion is close to his heart.
“What I came to understand over the years that was significant was that local mattered,” he said.
“In a very globalized world, there are opportunities to push back against that mass globalization and create regionality. The money that gets spent in [Spinnakers] gets spent [in Victoria] by us and stays in the local economy.”
Think Local First members pay $250 a year to belong to the organization. They promote the idea that at least 10 per cent of your spending should go to local businesses, keeping more money at home.