My hometown of Roanoke, Virginia has started a new website called MyRetailRoanoke.com. It's unique because it asks citizens to complete a profile and then vote on up to 10 stores or restaurants they'd like to see come to our area. The city hopes to take this data to prospective stores/restaurants, or at least have it on hand, when one is looking to come to our area. It's an interesting idea.
When you visit the site, they ask you to complete a profile that includes your zip code and household income. When you vote for a particular merchant, they ask: A) how often would you visit, and B) how much would you spend?
While this is an innovative way to recruit new merchants, it could potentially backfire. Not only does it get the citizens' hopes up for these new merchants for which they'd like to see in our area. But what's possibly worse, is that a potential merchant could see this site and say, "We're the 6th most wanted merchant in this area with only 120 votes." Restaurants and retailers consider "petitions" such as this as a grain of salt and look at economic data and location as major deciding factors - as they should. With viral websites more popular than ever, and word of mouth advertising as the oldest trick in the book (and most effective), it is an interesting effort on behalf of the City of Roanoke.
I'd expect the site to attract brief media attention and some brief traction with residents (thus far, 3700+ ballots store ballots have been submitted) but I think we'll see its popularity fade quickly. The jury's still out though, hopefully it will work and bring new economic development to my hometown.