Local online shopping tips to support your community

Support your community from the safety of your home by shopping online from local businesses.

6 min read

Small businesses all over the world are feeling the pressure from the coronavirus pandemic. Lockdowns have forced stores to close, and many people have turned to the internet for COVID-safe ways to buy what they need. Yet the resulting surge in online shopping is primarily benefiting big tech companies and major retailers.

To counteract this trend, we’ve put together some tips on how to shop locally—both online and offline. By shopping local, you can help to make sure your favorite stores will still be around after the pandemic. 

The benefits of shopping local

We get it. It’s tempting to simply buy everything from one massive online shopping platform. Maybe you’re working from home for the first time in your life, or juggling homeschooling with all your other responsibilities. But it’s worth investing a little more time in your purchasing decisions, because money well spent can have a seriously positive impact on your community, the environment, and even your own quality of life. 

  • Support local businesses—Buying from local shops means your money stays in the community. This helps to ensure retail diversity and employment opportunities in your town or city. What’s more, thriving local businesses also mean increased tax revenue for local services and infrastructure.

  • Protect the environment—Shorter shipping distances equals fewer transport emissions. Buying locally grown produce is also more environmentally friendly than factory farmed alternatives. 

  • Save on shipping—You can avoid shipping fees by visiting shops in person or buying from local websites with in-store or curbside pick-up. When you visit shops, help to keep yourself and others safe by wearing a mask, keeping your distance, and limiting browsing time.

  • Enjoy fresher, better quality food—Fruit, vegetables and other foodstuffs are fresher, healthier, and more flavorful when they’re locally sourced. You’ll also be supporting local farmers, who often use sustainable and/or organic farming methods. 

  • Foster a sense of community—Shopping locally means that you’ll be interacting more with fellow residents, so you’ll feel more connected to your community. Numerous studies have indicated that social connection also improves well-being.

Get personal advice—Local business owners are passionate and knowledgeable about their wares and can give you specialized advice in person, on the phone, or by email. 

Fresh products from local farmers

To survive the long journey from a distant country to your fridge, many imported fruits and vegetables must be harvested before they are ripe, transported chilled, and artificially ripened upon arrival. Aside from this added artificial effort, international supply chains have larger carbon footprints than locally or regionally sourced produce. 

  • Supermarkets—The good news is you don’t need to search for a family-run organic supermarket to find fresh, local products. Regular supermarkets also stock meat and veg that hasn’t completed a world tour. While some packaging actively promotes the product’s regional credentials, often you’ll have to scour the label to find the country of origin.

  • Farmer’s markets—Get the good stuff straight from the source. To find out where your nearest farmer’s market is (and if it’s still open despite COVID-19 restrictions), check out online directories like these in the UK, the USA, Germany, France, and Spain.

  • Food box subscriptions—An even more convenient way to eat local is to order a food box subscription. Countless companies deliver weekly boxes packed with seasonal vegetables, such as Oddbox in southeast England, Farm to People in New York or A Farmer For You in Berlin.

Local pharmacies provide expert advice

The discounts offered by big online pharmacies are certainly tempting. But here, too, you can use your consumer choices to vote for the kind of community you’d like to live in. Many people, particularly the elderly, benefit from access to bricks-and-mortar pharmacies and having their prescriptions completed in person by a trained professional. 

You might pay a bit more when you support your local chemist, but you’ll benefit from personalized service and peace of mind that you’re getting the right product. 

For example, people with high blood pressure or heart disease should not take decongestant tablets containing pseudoephedrine. When you buy them online, no-one is going to ask you about your pre-existing conditions, and you may miss this information unless you go hunting through the lists of side effects and warnings.

Local bookstores—havens of culture and knowledge

Okay, perhaps you have to be a bookworm to appreciate the smell of a freshly bound hardback. Still, immersing yourself in a shop filled with the printed word can be a particularly special experience.

If you’re not sure what to read, ask a bookstore employee—they’re usually bursting with recommendations. And if your desired title is not in stock, they will place a special order for you. Local bookshops sometimes have online stores too, so you can also support them from the comfort and safety of your home.

For e-book lovers—if you prefer the convenience of a single device with hundreds of titles, we recommend e-readers like Kobo or Nook. They are usually compatible with digital library borrowing systems, so you can use them to read e-books from your local library, too.

Buy flowers from local florists

When you buy from a major online florist, you can’t be sure where your blooms are coming from. Maybe they’re sourced from a florist on the local high street, or maybe they’re trucked in from another city.

Here, too, shopping locally means lowering your shipping costs, reducing the carbon footprint of your purchase, supporting local businesses, and increasing your social connections. Trained florists can recommend beautiful arrangements for special occasions and give you tips on how to make your bouquet last as long as possible. Stepping into a flower shop is also a sensory experience not to be sniffed at—and it makes a nice break from the pandemic monotony of work, eat, sleep, repeat.

Local shopping apps and sites

Google Maps and Apple Maps are the obvious places to start when you’re looking for local businesses. You can enter specific search terms, or simply zoom around and see what’s on offer near you.

But there are plenty of alternatives. Head to the leading online business directory in your country (e.g., Yellow Pages, Yell) or try your luck on Yelp, where you can search for everything from dentists to beauty salons. Lots of local businesses are on Facebook and Instagram, so you can also use the search function to look for stores. 

Even though you’re not travelling, you could also use Foursquare City Guide or TripAdvisor in your own town or city to locate nearby restaurants, bookstores, clothing shops, and more.

How N26 helps you support local businesses

At N26, we understand shopping locally is important. That’s why N26 debit cards are designed to help you pay quickly and contactlessly at the stores in your neighborhood—and make secure internet purchases from your favorite online retailers.

All our cards feature contactless NFC technology, so you can minimize the amount of time you spend at the checkout—simply tap and go. You can also link your card with Google Pay® or Apple Pay®, and make in-store payments right from your smartphone.

When you shop online with your N26 card, your purchases are protected by Mastercard’s 3D Secure technology. This extra two-factor authentication step helps to prevent fraud, so you can order click-and-collect groceries with added peace of mind.

By N26

The Mobile Bank

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