Years ago, shopping online was associated with the impersonal distance of digital culture. Communicating via email couldn’t seem to compete with the romantic notion of interacting with a shopkeeper personally. Electronic transactions were valued for their efficiency and convenience, seeming to lack consideration and luxury, an association that perhaps suggests why eCards never truly established themselves. Interestingly, however, our consideration of online shopping is now beginning to change.

As corporations and nationwide businesses occupy the high street, filling each town and city with an abundance of similar products, there has been a resurgence of interest directed toward small businesses. Customers are turning to local and independent retailers and creators seeking products that are made with higher-quality and in a lower quantity.

As well as the products themselves, small business owners, and the teams that support them, are far more accessible to customers. This creates a personal connection with the business and the product sold, which is an appealing quality to customers. Purchases become friendly interactions and offer shoppers the opportunity to choose businesses that better suit their needs.

The most interesting aspect of this growing preference for shopping small and local is that the internet is the most appropriate platform upon which to support them. Alongside individual websites, digital platforms like Depop, Etsy, and Shopify have given even the smallest businesses an opportunity to start out. Larger services, such as WhatsApp, are even following suit, looking to accommodate retail services. No longer do artisans, creatives, and entrepreneurs need to find and compete for appropriate rental spaces on the high street or seek out substantial loans when, instead, they can begin their business affordably online.

Digital shopping’s efficiency now works to the advantage of personal shopping experiences. For example, new parents who might seek a sustainably made ultimate baby gift set or a unique Christmas gift designed by a local artist will be better equipped to find their desired products online, being able to narrow their product specifications down, as well as containing them to their local area.

Whereas previously, shopping online has been represented as being an impersonal practice, one that is unsupportive of local interests, it is now the opposite that is true. Shop local online is a Google search query that has grown over 200% in popularity this year. While some of this interest can be attributed to concerns of post-pandemic shopping, searches involving local and near me are becoming more frequent each year.

While it may seem counterintuitive to shop for a personal and special product online, the situation is actually the reverse. High street retailers, despite occupying brick and mortar stores, often offer less of a personal experience than shopping with an independent business digitally. Now, as more small and independent businesses are making their start online, utilising social media to reach wider audiences, it seems that their presence will continue to grow, and their support along with it.