“How we interact at a local level is really important to us, and that’s why we’ve launched these local Facebook pages,” Stephen Quinn, chief marketing officer of Wal-Mart US, tells Fortune magazine.

Mr Quinn explains that retailing is fundamentally a local business. His marketing team has to work out how to build local communities around its 3,500 US stores.

For local shopkeepers the challenge is clear. In 2012 you need to think about how you represent your shop on Facebook and similar social media and through the internet. As an exercise, go to Google and enter the word groceries and the name of your town or village. I did it for my village and One Stop came top. I did it for where I work and Sainsbury Local came top.

“Our goal is to integrate into the things that are happening in a local community and to make us better merchants through that,” Mr Quinn tells Fortune.

His aim is to erode your advantage as a local retailer. You need to respond by understanding what your shop is about. A second idea that Mr Quinn advances in the interview is that shops need to be defined not by what they sell but by the people who they serve. Many local shopkeepers understand this. I know this because they can explain why some products are great in their shops even though they would never buy them for themselves. However, many retailers are really poor at thinking about who their shoppers are and what they want. Check you have your product and services assortment right.

A former marketer for Pepsico, Mr Quinn is experienced at building brands. For retailers, he says the brand is about how you interact with shoppers every day. This means that you and your team need to understand what you are offering shoppers and to pitch this offer well day in, day out.

The other great thing about retailers is that they are constantly trying new things, he says. What shoppers like, they do more of. What they don’t like, they delist. At Wal-Mart this process is delegated to hundreds of buyers but controlled by very strong processes. How does your shop do on this measure? Are you in control of thinking about new ideas?