The future looks bright for small businesses, with consumers increasingly drawn towards shopping small.
At Vistaprint, we recently surveyed 1,500 U.S. consumers, and more than three-quarters said that shopping at or using a small business is important to them. The main driver is the impact these businesses have on the local community. In fact, more than double the number of respondents cited local commitment over price as their top motivation.
As a company that works with 17 million small and micro business owners globally, we see first-hand the value these businesses provide to customers, local communities and the national economy. We wanted to dive deeper, and find out what consumers really love about shopping small.
The findings, published in The Consumer Small Business Shopping Report, also reveal that 25% more consumers plan to shop or work more with small businesses in 2018.
To keep this trend going, we feel there is an opportunity for business owners to leverage the unique qualities that attract consumers as part of their marketing strategy:
Capitalize on Community
Small businesses demonstrate an unwavering commitment to their local community. And it’s not just about generating local jobs and providing a regional economic boost. Small businesses also form the identity of neighborhoods, their locally made products attract consumers from all over the country, and they often play a crucial role in community events and activities.
The added value small businesses provide strengthens the fabric of communities, so it’s no surprise that consumers are showing their support through repeat business. As a business owner, it’s important that you regularly highlight the broader benefits you´re bringing to these local customers.
One way of increasing goodwill locally is through fundraising. Find a cause you are personally passionate about or that aligns well with your business, and partner with a local charity. You could donate a portion of your sales on the day of the fundraiser, or participate in an existing fundraiser by sponsoring the event or donating a raffle draw.
Make your involvement clear by talking about your support in local and social media. That way customers will increasingly associate your business with wider community outreach, and not simply a product or service.
Put Service in the Spotlight
Personal service is another key selling point for small businesses, as 42% of consumers say this drives their decision to shop small.
This highly personalized level of service from small businesses comes from owners really knowing their customers and community. For example, nearly 70% of consumers will support or shop at a small business more frequently if the owner knows their name.
The experience U.S. consumers receive in person also appeals, as 60% prefer to interact in store when shopping at a small business.
It’s clear that small businesses are in a great position to offer a first-rate customer experience, but how can they apply this to their marketing?
First, if your customers are happy you shouldn’t be afraid to actively solicit reviews from them that endorse your business. As you encounter customers who have had a positive experience, encourage them to post a review on sites like Google, Yelp, Yahoo! local listings, or Angie’s list. Not only will reviews help to validate what you already know about your business, they may also bring some areas for improvement to light.
Another way to build on the personalized service your business provides, is to ensure you’re replicating this experience online. Closely monitor conversations on social media and respond in a customer centric way, to both positive and negative feedback alike. Also, join any town or interest-specific Facebook groups and use them to introduce yourself and your business.
Differentiate Through Quality
While customer experience is paramount, quality of products and services is another top factor driving consumers to shop with small businesses. One third (36%) of consumers shop at or work with a small business due to the quality of their products or services – twice the number than at larger businesses. From artisan baked goods and handmade crafts to massage therapists and dogwalkers, consumers come to small businesses for high quality and unique products and services that are hard to come by elsewhere. A great deal of care, consideration and creativity goes into your product or service, and you should capitalize on this when marketing your company.
Facebook Live is a great platform to showcase your products and services in real-time. You could use this feature to livestream the meticulous process for creating your products, or run Q&A sessions with customers to demonstrate your expert knowledge.
Certain types of businesses, such as hair and beauty salons, could also provide practical advice for consumers through blogging, helping them to make the right purchasing decisions and get the most out of their services.
Providing this added value will reinforce your customers’ perceptions that your business offers quality, underpinned by expertise.
Don’t Forget Digital
Every business, regardless of its size and industry, needs to invest in their digital presence.
Our survey results back this up, as two-thirds (67%) of consumers say it is either somewhat or very important to them that a small business has a website. Word-of-mouth marketing can be powerful, but it will only spread news of your business so far. Many customers outside your local community probably won’t know about your business, and the first time they interact with you will be online.
Your website is another channel where you can draw attention to the other three qualities previously mentioned, through high quality imagery and video, testimonials, blogs, your products/services page, and company’s story.
By highlighting their community focus, personalized service, and high-quality offering, small business owners will reap the rewards of increased consumer commitment to shopping small.