Lockdown orders have required many consumers to stay within their local communities when purchasing goods, particularly for programs like curbside pickup. But a new survey by payments solution Sezzle found that consumers are actively more interested in purchasing locally in the long term, as a result of COVID-19.
The survey found that more than half of Gen Z respondents are trying to support local businesses during the pandemic, with 60% asserting that they will continue to shop locally post-COVID-19. Other demographics showed a similar commitment to staying local, with the majority of millennials (55.2%) and Gen Xers (50.5%) saying that they are trying to shop locally right now.
“Consumers both want to know more about their brands and they want to know that how they spend can make an impact,” said Chris Bixby, VP of marketing at Sezzle. “This means brands need to find creative ways to enable consumers to get behind the curtain to learn about the company’s backstory, its history, its support within its local community and its employees.”
Bixby observed that those efforts aren’t just important for small businesses, but also for global brands and retailers — creating a sense of connection is one of the most critical components of localization, beyond geography. However, establishing a connection may prove harder for international brands, as a majority of respondents (52.7%) reported being more wary of purchasing products from overseas right now.
“Localization is just another way of saying “brand love” — consumers and retailers are both realizing that they need to connect on a more emotional and personal level,” said Bixby. “For us, right now, this is about supporting local entrepreneurs. [But] we also see this with consumers supporting brands with a mission and core values that align with them.”
This has become particularly important for many consumers following the protest actions taking place in cities across the U.S. and abroad, as shoppers look to support black-owned companies in their communities.
Based in Minneapolis, Sezzle said it is participating in the drive to support local business and prioritizing the promotion of their black-owned retail partners.
“This huge influx of support for black-owned businesses is incredible, and I think it’s a movement that will (and should) stick around,” said Erin Foran, media relations lead at Sezzle. “This also adds to the shift toward localization that we’re seeing, in the best way possible. I hope that our community and country continue this support, and I hope Sezzle can aid in it as well.”
On a broader scale, Sezzle is introducing a Canadian-specific directory so that its users in Canada can support merchants closer to home. (The platform is predominantly U.S. brands.) This is part of a larger commitment to enhancing search functions in the platform, so that customers can filter through businesses and find merchants in specific cities or regions that they would like to support.
Bixby noted that for brands and retailers today, there is an opportunity to capitalize on the consumer’s interest in brand values. The companies that are able to effectively communicate their missions and values will be more likely to resonate with this crop of shoppers, which could help sustain repeat sales in the long term.
“This is about businesses understanding that, for Gen Z and younger millennials, who you are as a brand is just as important as what you sell and how much you sell it for,” said Bixby. “The data in our recent study shows that understanding a company’s core values is a major determinant of whether or not a consumer will give them their business.”