Many apps let you narrow your search by ZIP Code and category of store.


Photo:

Giacomo Bagnara

Want to “shop local”? Your phone might make that easier.

As shoppers become more interested in seeking out Main Street stores—instead of the big chains or online giants—app makers are creating software that could help consumers find independent businesses in their area.

Some apps cover a single city or region, while others include the whole country but let consumers zero in on their area. Usually, shoppers can find stores by category, such as “sporting goods” or “men’s fashions,” and some apps show coupons and information about discounts, too.

The easiest way to track these apps down is to search on

Apple’s

App Store or the Google Play store using terms such as “local shopping apps” or “shopping locally.” Be warned, though: A good number of the apps mix in chain stores with the mom-and-pops, and some deliver listings that are more like local classified ads.

Also, be aware that even the bigger apps may not have a comprehensive list of smaller stores, and many stores don’t send the apps updated information. So it’s best to check with the stores themselves about prices or availability of an item.

Here’s a look at some apps for those who want to think globally and shop locally.

Big and small. One category of app covers the whole country and lets you plug in a city or ZIP Code to see independent businesses in that area along with some local outlets of national brands. One of these apps—LocalFlavor—lists retailers, restaurants and services and offers coupons and other discounts. For instance, shoppers looking for retail stores in Albany, N.Y., see a list including family-run cowboy-boots store Double M Western as well as a local franchisee of food-basket chain Edible Arrangements. Shoppers can click on an individual listing to see the store’s website, contact information and a map.

On the LocalSaver app, listings include independent locally owned retailers, restaurants and services like manicurists and optometrists, although there are some franchises in the mix.

Exclusively indie. Plenty of national apps help shoppers who want to steer clear of big-name stores entirely. Independent We Stand—which lets shoppers search by merchandise category locally by entering a ZIP Code or city—says that it includes only locally owned firms in its listings. And it tells shoppers, “If you find any non-indie businesses in your search, please email us.”

Sticking close to home. Another category of app focuses on a specific area instead of covering the whole country. The Shop Local Network app covers 18 cities in Indiana, for instance, and lets shoppers search their area for listings of locally owned stores and services. This app also operates a rewards program, giving shoppers discounts when they shop at businesses listed on the app.

Keep It Local OK covers locally owned stores, restaurants and services in parts of Oklahoma. Shoppers can search by city, product category or store name.

Getting specific. Some apps target certain categories or highlight unique or otherwise difficult-to-find products. Niche, for example, specializes in food as well as beauty and home products from small firms that produce and sell locally. Sorting by category and distance, shoppers can search for, say, “baked goods” in the San Francisco Bay Area and find Oyna Natural Foods, which makes kukus, a Persian-style frittata, and sells them at local farmers markets. The Snaptown app lists mostly restaurants, both locally owned ones and national chains, and some locally owned retail stores. You can search by city and keywords.

Ms. Lee is a writer in Palo Alto, Calif. Email reports@wsj.com.

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