Under the Radar: The Local Frequency
Innovative app offers incentive to spend your dollars locally
This is a post in the EDW Newsroom’s Under the Radar blog series, which profiles successful Winnipeg-based businesses who are having an impact in their respective industries
In a city of one million people, if everyone shifted five per cent of their shopping to local businesses, it could help produce over 3,000 more local jobs and inject $100 million in additional dollars for the local economy. With promise of that economic spinoff, it just made cents for Tyler Ibrahim and his team at Winnipeg software solutions firm Protegra to create an innovative app that encourages customers to keep their dollars locally.
The Local Frequency goes beyond basic loyalty programs. Ibrahim knew the app needed to create a sustainable environment of individuals and businesses who come together, understand their relationships to each other and choose to collaborate; moving from “me” to “we” thinking.
“Many other businesses work on an extraction model where it’s corporately owned and all the money flows to that company,” he explains. “They try and expand their business to other communities where they ultimately extract value. Our approach is to enable the many existing local organizations (such as Go Local, Local First, and Think Local programs) and help them earn money while adding value to their members and overall community.”
And what better way to begin this movement than hitting the pavement and actually talking to the people who would benefit most?
“Before we even wrote a line of code, we talked to local businesses in Winnipeg. We discussed loyalty programs, their funding streams, advertising, challenges,” he says, adding they consulted at least 100 Winnipeg entrepreneurs about the first iteration of what would eventually become The Local Frequency. “What we heard was they needed a unique marketing channel that allowed users discover great local gems in Winnipeg, but also brought value to their business and local economy.”
That’s where the idea of Local Dollars came in. When people make purchases at participating businesses, they earn cash back in the form of Local Dollars. The amount they get is up to the business, but it’s typically three per cent for debit or cash transactions and five per cent when they spend Local Dollars. Users can earn cash back when they get a haircut and then spend the Local Dollars right away to buy a coffee.
“It’s a loyalty program people can feel good about,” states Ibrahim, who adds more and more people are concerned about lining the pockets of big chains through their purchases. “Local Dollars stick to local businesses and recirculate in our community. And, money recirculated by local businesses goes into wages for local residents, purchases of local goods and services, as well as charitable giving.”
The app also raises awareness of other local businesses customers might love to try. And there are certainly a few to choose from. Currently, more than 130 businesses in Manitoba participate in The Local Frequency, which range from restaurants to services to hot attractions.
Photo courtesy The Local Frequency. Back row left to right: Scott Lindenberg, Iain Coates, Tyler Ibrahim, Ian Scatliff. Front row: Jade Anne Di Nicola, John Scatliff.
These businesses’ profiles are further bolstered by the app’s recently-launched online magazine The Local Beat, which tells the story of the people behind the counter.
“Many people simply don’t know about all the great local businesses in their community; it’s hard to hear about them. In general, these businesses market themselves less than their national and international chain competition,” says Ibrahim. “The Local Beat is about developing that connection between the customer and a business. It’s not just ‘you should shop here’; it helps people see WHY you should shop here.”
Ibrahim and his team are looking to help new communities in Canada and the United States find their ‘why’ and sourcing out different local organizations to bring to the platform.
“We’re also working with an expert in this space, who is helping introduce us to the right people,” he states. “He has said in his 30 years working in the local economy space, he hasn’t seen something like what we’ve got. The app is already built in a way where new communities can participate. They get to leverage what we’ve already built and tested here in Winnipeg.”