In business for more than 100 years, the Albany Area Chamber of Commerce is looking to expand its services to members this year by creating a website that will prompt local consumers to shop locally. (Staff Photo: Brad McEwen)
ALBANY —The Albany Area of Commerce hopes 2014 will be the year that it’s Shop Local campaign will really gain traction and help to the boost the value member businesses get from their local Chamber office.
Already folks driving around Albany and Dougherty County have begun to see billboards asking them to think locally and remember how the businesses in the area can serve their needs.
Chamber President and CEO Chris Hardy hopes the new year will see the campaign really gain increased momentum and move in entirely new, digital direction.
“We’ve got some billboards up around town asking people to think locally and shop locally,” said Hardy. “We’ve coined the term ‘always Albany.’ I don’t want to just say, ‘hey, shop local.’ Anybody can do that so we want to have some meat.”
The meat Hardy is referring to is the Chamber’s plan to launch a new website geared to help residents and visitors more easily find local businesses and take advantage of the services they offer.
In Hardy’s vision, he sees a website where residents and visitors looking for retail stores, restaurants or service industries, like plumbers, electricians, lawyers and doctors, can go to one spot and find those businesses that are Chamber members.
“Obviously it’s only going to be for members of the Chamber,” said Hardy. “Hopefully what we can include inside the website is some type things where all someone will have to do is a quick search of something and they’ll have a list of every single member that’s in that business. Statistics and data proves that consumers tend to shop with businesses that are members of their local chambers of commerce because it makes them more reputable. Whether that’s true or not they tend to do business with businesses that are part of their chamber of commerce, whether it’s perception or reality the perception is is that that business is reputable.”
It’s Hardy’s hope that the new website, will allow those chamber businesses that have an online presence to tout that presence and that the website will provide links to member sites, so that visitors to the site can find the businesses and then quickly connect to them.
In providing this capability, Hardy believes it will raise the profiles of those businesses’ websites, and therefore increase customer activity.
Hardy feels very strongly that local shopping can be greatly enhanced and businesses can thrive if online shoppers get in the habit of thinking locally. Even larger stores, Hardy said, can benefit if shoppers do online business with them. Something that also helps the community.
“Even, if it’s big box shopping, like one of our retail stores in the mall, like Belk or JC Penney or Sears,” said Hardy. “If (people are going to shop) online, why not go to the stores that are here where at least a portion of the money stays here.”