Santa Barbara is a place filled with nooks, crannies and distinctive neighborhoods with their own feel and micro-culture. Weather you’re talking about Downtown, La Cumbre, Montecito or the West Side – they each have their own nuanced personalities. I would imagine it’s the same in your town as well. Within those neighborhoods, we have our favorite spots – whether they be a gem of a coffee shop, a great dry cleaner, or a dive bar with a special place in our heart. They’re what make our neighborhoods unique.

Maybe you frequent a certain deli because it’s close by or a grocery store because it’s convenient, but there has to be more to it, right? There has to be something that brings you back to that establishment. Maybe it’s an exceptional product, or great customer service. Maybe the owner makes you feel welcome when you walk in. Or, maybe it’s just a Mom & Pop shop does great things in your community.

I think this same concept of neighborhoods exists online.

Think about the places you visit online on a regular basis – that would be your virtual neighborhood. The various destinations you frequent make up the hot spots in that given neighborhood. What makes you go back to those places? What drives that loyalty?

Think about your online property as a storefront – maybe it’s a blog, or a news site or an online shoe store. What can you do to make people come back to your store in their neighborhood?


Above all, your product has to be top-notch. Whether you’re serving food, selling cars or peddling fashion content – your product has to speak for itself. Having a solid product doesn’t always guarantee success, but without it, you’re pretty much guaranteed to fail.


How comfortable is your “place?” People tend to go to neighborhood businesses that they feel comfortable in. That means a variety of things to different people. How easy is your site to navigate? Does it have a friendly tone? Is it easy to make a purchase? What about returns? We have enough hassles in our lives, make sure your establishment isn’t one of them. The more comfortable you make the experience for your customers, the more likely they are to return.


As consumers we want to feel like we’re being heard. Do you offer a way for customers to write reviews about your products? Do you respond to those reviews? As a blogger, do you encourage your community to leave comments and challenge your opinions? Do you show them respect when they do? Giving consumers a voice makes them feel like someone is paying attention to their needs. That breeds loyalty.


For many businesses, just following the points above would give any customer incentive to come to your neighborhood establishment. What else can you do to create loyalty? Let’s use Zappos as an example. They makes buying products online incredibly simple. Besides the fact that they offer free ground shipping and pre-paid returns on anything they sell, they also have a VIP program that gives customers free overnight shipping on anything in their store. Amazingly, this service is totally free. With those types of incentives, why would you shop anywhere else for shoes?


Humans are creatures of habit. We want a great product, but we also wants to be taken of. We want to feel valued and we want to go to a place where everybody knows our name…and they’re always glad we came. That’s why we frequent the same spots in our towns, in our neighborhoods. It’s why we tell our friends about them and why we do things like check-in and promote them on Foursquare. Make sure you’re treating your online presence like a neighborhood gem – your customers will reward you for it.