Buy-Local Shopper Survey: Motivations & Barriers

Buy Local Shoppers Survey Blog Feature Graphic. Small & Local

We spoke to many buy-local shoppers when first designing our small and local solution for connecting folks with more small local businesses. When this platform was just a dream and some wireframe sketches, we conducted a buy-local shopper survey* where respondents openly shared their motivations and frustrations with us. And we found many commonalities.

The main points being that the passion for supporting small local businesses runs deep. And the difficulties in finding new small local business options are real.

Here, for your reading and viewing pleasure (that is, if you’re as geeky about Word Clouds and colourful charts as I am), is a breakdown of some of our 2018 buy-local survey results. And I bet, if you’re a passionate buy local shopper like many of our respondents, you’ll relate to lots of what you see here.

Why is it Important to You to Buy from Local Providers?

This is perhaps my favourite word cloud of the survey. Check out the big “Yes”, “Community”, & “Support Small Business”. LOVE!

Q1 buy local survey results

Psst! Notice the little vLife Logo on some of these survey graphics – that was our original brand name. We like Small and Local waaay better, because it’s at the heart of all we do. So we changed it!  Noting here for clarity. Ok, let’s get back to it! 🙂

I’d like to pull out a particular response here as it really highlights the full extent of this person’s multiple reasons for buying local:

“Absolutely! Because I know through my business research that keeping dollars churning in our local communities grows our economy. Local business owners tend to spend their dollars locally as well, ultimately resulting in more jobs, a higher population, a higher tax base, better government services, etc etc. It is a much bigger snowball than many realize.”

Well said!  It’s exactly these snowballing benefits that we proudly outline in our explainer video, The Many Benefits of Buying Small & Local. Check it out, and please do share in your networks to help grow the knowledge about the many positive impacts of supporting small local businesses.

Do You Tend to Visit the Same Local Providers?

I found these results interesting as they speak to the loyalty of buy-local shoppers. Once they have found a small & local business they love, they keep coming back. So, it follows that the more easily they can find more local providers they like, the more small local businesses they will support. Gotta love that!

vlife 2018 Buy-Local Shopper survey showing willingness to join secure online platform to connect with more local providers

And, as you can see, there were a few folks who, despite wanting to, don’t use local providers very much. Not surprisingly. Finding them can be very tricky, as our blog, Finding More Small Business Options explores.

How Do You Find More Local Providers?

This was one of this survey’s “double-up questions”**. So the big “YES” indicates the most common answer to the first part of this question, “Do you want to find more local providers?” Rest assured, if you are a small business owner, there are buy-local shoppers just ready and waiting to find you! And that’s exactly why we were born 🙂

How do you find more local providers?

As you can see, we can add “online searches” to “Google” and “Social Media” to “Facebook” to see just how often buy-local shoppers are trying to find more small local business options online.

But, given that the number one reported problem of small Canadian businesses in 2017 was “attracting new customers…” (i.e.visibility), these current online methods aren’t working very well in connecting folks with more small local businesses! Once again, we’re helping to solve this very problem as it’s only small local businesses that can open landing pages on our platform. And we actively engage our passionate and growing list of buy-local subscribers in connecting with these small indie businesses.

Do You Have Barriers to Buying Local?

This is an interesting look at the things that hinder our buy-local shopper respondents in accessing local options. Unfortunately, the Word Cloud for this didn’t render very well as it included words like “providers” and “local” without any context. But not to worry. Upon reading the responses, a few top barriers did appear.

What is one perceived barrier to buy-local shoppers? Cost.

Some people—especially referring to food items—found cost was sometimes a barrier.

This reminds me of something my brother said to me years ago about why local foods are more expensive. He flipped it around, noting that it’s not just local food that’s more expensive. It’s that the heavily subsidized cash crop industrial farm produce is artificially cheap.

If local food supplies were subsidized as much as the few multi-national corporate food producers are, we’d soon see the prices of local produce become more affordable. And consequently, provide communities with more secure & sustainable local food sources. We explore this topic more fully in our blog, Supporting Local Food Providers.

Not that this factoid puts any more money in your wallet on grocery day (unfortunately). But it’s a frustrating unsustainable food model we rely on and, as such, worth noting.  And sadly, it’s in the poorest quarters in our cities where affordable healthy food is at its most scarce. But I digress.

Getting back to the issue of affordability, sometimes you can get some great deals on local produce at the end of market days so, when funds allow, perhaps have a look. There are also co-ops and produce subscription services that can be a more affordable way to introduce more local food options. Our guest blogger Juliette Lacroix explores some ways to do just that here.

Another factor raised around cost as a concern was in reference to clothing purchases. We’re lucky enough to have some help in this regard from our guest blogger Erin Elaine Casey who outlines some approaches to affordably accessing local clothing solutions. Check it out here.

What is another perceived barrier to buy-local shoppers? Access

And, guess what was one of the most common responses to barriers folks experience with buying local? You guessed it—FINDING local options for the goods and services they are looking for. And this is largely due to the visibility issue in the online space we touched on earlier. We see that people are predominately looking for more local options online. But Google and social media searches simply aren’t working well enough in actually connecting folks with more small local business options.

Why Support Small Local Businesses? – The Math Says, “Do It!”

When we were conducting our survey, we were initially considering a service including small and medium-sized local businesses—which is why the two questions explored in the next section, mention them both.

However, since that time (and from subsequent research), we have found that our small and local business platform will have the biggest positive impact by creating an online connection service for small local businesses.

It’s not that medium-sized local businesses don’t help our economy. They most certainly do! But not to the same extent as small businesses.  And medium-sized businesses can better afford to outsource (or have in-house departments) to maximize their online presence in a way that small businesses simply cannot—without the help of a platform like ours.

In any case, the latest research from Stats Canada (as noted in this post by The Balance Small Business) indicates just how profound an effect we can have by supporting the small businesses in our locals as they comprise such a large percentage of employer businesses in Canada:

“As of December 2015, there were 1.17 million employer businesses in Canada. Of these, 1.14 million (97.9 percent) businesses were small businesses, 21,415 (1.8 percent) were mediumsized businesses and 2,933 (0.3 percent) were large enterprises.”

It’s clear that, by our ability to assist buy-local shoppers in connecting with more small local businesses online, we will be helping to dramatically grow, not only local economies, but the Canadian economy as a whole. And, for a social enterprise service like ours, that’s a very exciting prospect!

How Committed are Buy-Local Shoppers? Very!

As many of you small business owners reading this will no doubt understand, it was in the responses to these last two questions that confirmed we were on the right track in developing this platform. As we suspected, our digital business platform clearly fills a demonstrable need for buy-local shoppers who overwhelmingly want to find more small local businesses.

The question selections for Q9 were slightly shortened for the chart. Here they are in full:

1. Yes, I would sign on and use this service in my own community and when visiting other communities: 97%
2. Yes, I would sign on and use this service in my own community: 3%
3. No, I would not sign up for this service: 0%

vlife 2018 Buy-Local Shopper survey showing willingness to join secure online platform to connect with more local providers

So, our buy-local shoppers were not only keen to support small businesses in their home local, but overwhelmingly wanted to be able to use a service like ours to support small businesses in locals they visited as well!

And the answer to our very last question shows a heart-warming sense of community—with 87% of buy-local shoppers indicating they would actively let their favourite small local businesses know about our service! Buy-local shopper loyalty extends beyond simply repeat business. They actively want to help their favourite small businesses grow and access new customers, as well.

vlife 2018 Buy-Local Shopper Survey Results showing desire to share vlife with favourite small local businesses


What are the Mobile Phone Usage & Age Ranges of Surveyed Buy-Local Shoppers?

Check out the stats of smartphone usage of our respondents. smart phone useage buy-local survey respondents

And the age range of the majority of our respondents spans Millennials to GenX-ers:

2018 vlife buy local survey respondents ages

What Has Our Survey Uncovered About Buy-Local Shoppers?

So, we know that our buy-local shopper respondents:
1. Want to find more small local businesses
2. Use their smartphones often
3. Mainly use online avenues to try to access more small business options

And we also know that:
4. Small local businesses are finding it increasingly difficult to gain visibility in the online space.

And that’s where we help.  We launched our social enterprise platform to fill this gap in the marketplace and help small local businesses connect with all those passionate buy-local shoppers who clearly want to find them.

Our launch City Hub is Halifax Regional Municipality in Nova Scotia (aka HRM). So we’re already helping our growing list of small local providers here gain greater online visibility via our platform. Check out our Categories to connect with these HRM providers and let us know what you think in the comments!

Also, if you’d like a presence in your community please do Contact Us and let us know so we can begin to help grow your home locally too 🙂

And guess what? We’ve conducted a small business owner survey and I’ll soon be posting its results in another blog. So, again, watch this space! And if you haven’t already, make sure to SUBSCRIBE to get it sent right to your inbox!


Calling all citizen scientist buy-local shoppers!
Now that our reach has broadened and we’ve launched in HRM, I’ll soon be conducting a further follow-up survey with access to more respondents to gain more insights with from a larger segment of buy-local shoppers. Please keep your eye out in your inboxes and on our social channels to contribute and share among your networks. There’s a real dearth of research of this kind so your help in contributing and sharing would have a huge beneficial impact 🙂

*NOTE: For the statistically minded among you, here’s some pertinent respondent info for you: Total number of Respondents: 27 – mostly from our home province on NS. Gender Identity Selection of respondents: Female 82%, Male 18 %, Other 0%

**Caveat: This was my very first attempt at a customer discovery survey. As I was trying to get as much out of the ten free questions allowed, you will see that, for some questions, I asked for responses to 2-3 questions in one. Obviously, those questions didn’t lend themselves quite as nicely to displays of Word Clouds as others. Lesson learned!  I will soon be releasing a newer survey with more refined questions, so watch this space as I’d love for you to contribute!

2 thoughts on “Buy-Local Shopper Survey: Motivations & Barriers

    • Melanie Little says:

      Thanks! So cool, eh? It’s exactly the vision we have for vlife – buy small & local wherever you are 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *