As all my readers know, I’m a big proponent of local search. I believe the web will be even more valuable in the future when we have access to deep hyperlocal content and social relationships (local merchants, classifieds, events, politics, etc.). I currently see two major trends in the zeitgeist that favor an explosion in the importance of local in the next few years.
1) Traceability. The various recalls of products made in China are slowly eroding consumers’ trust in imported goods. Even the E. coli scares we had in the last few months are shaking people’s confidence. Buyers are starting to ask questions as to the provenance of products and wondering if they can trust the supply chain. My hypotheses is that the shorter and more local the supply chain, the higher the trust factor will be, and people will figure it out quickly. I think Community Supported Agriculture is a great example of that phenomenon.
2) The carbon footprint movement. People are starting to wonder how much energy it took to produce and bring the products to the store, i.e. what is their carbon footprint? Studies show that local products do not necessarily have lower carbon footprints but I think consumers won’t think twice about buying local products if they have the perception they’re “saving the Earth”. According to FT.com, Tesco, a UK grocery chain, “has embarked on an ambitious labelling initiative that will eventually allow shoppers to compare all its products on their emissions levels in the same way they look at price or nutritional value” In addition, companies like Toronto’s ZeroFootPrint are also leveraging that trend.