This year, the COVID-19 pandemic has transformed the way Americans prepare for everything—from the summer travel season to the back-to-school season and even the fall sports season—and small businesses are feeling the strain. But even in a pandemic, consumers want to shop small year-round. For small businesses looking to adapt, consistent engagement is key.
Consumers enjoy shopping local for a variety of reasons. Supporting small businesses allows them to drive job creation and economic vitality with every purchase. Additionally, consumers can find the most unique goods and personal items by looking beyond the big box. Particularly in a pandemic, shopping small often means supporting causes that matter.
For small businesses, these consumer behaviors and preferences are important to understand. By understanding why consumers want to shop small, small business owners can tailor their messaging and in-store experience to draw customers in, no matter the season or circumstances caused by the pandemic.
Supporting the Local Community
Customers know that supporting small businesses means supporting their community. Particularly in a pandemic, Americans are rooted to their communities. Their neighborhoods, downtown districts and local parks have never been more important. Whether it is a holiday parade or a summer farmers’ market, small businesses are behind some of the most treasured local traditions. Plus, they create jobs and generate local tax revenue all year long.
To connect with customers, highlight the local impact your small business has on the community. It might feel uncomfortable to toot your own horn, but it is also a valuable way to show customers you care.
Finding a Personal Touch
Walking into a small business feels pleasant. It turns an otherwise unexceptional errand into a fun adventure. These days, it is trendy to be “in the know” on all the great local spots and secrets. Customers love hunting their communities for the new shops and restaurants that they can recommend to their friends and family. At these local shops, customers know they can find unique items, local recipes and new hobbies. And if they don’t know what they’re looking for, they can always ask an expert who works there.
When engaging with your customers, make sure to keep it personal. A friendly greeting as they walk in the door or an open-ended question on social media are great ways to build relationships with your customers.
In addition to keeping money in the local economy and creating local jobs, small businesses are known for their altruistic nature. When a Little League team needs jerseys or a local park needs cleaning, small businesses are always there to help.
Big boxes and national chains tend to give back during specific times of the year—think, pink merchandise during Breast Cancer Awareness Month and hosting the Salvation Army during the holidays. But small businesses are more in tune with the needs of their local community. When a local church catches fire and needs rebuilding or a local food bank runs low during a particularly busy summer, small businesses are quick to respond. This means that small businesses can give back in meaningful ways all year long, even when it is not seasonal.
Customers appreciate what your small business does for local causes. How has your team been giving back during this year’s pandemic? Share your stories on social media and e-newsletters to spread the word about local causes and remind customers you care.
Consistency is Key
No matter what drives them, customers want to shop small all year long. That is why it is important to maintain consistent engagement in-store, online and through other channels. Even in a pandemic, when customers might be hesitant to venture out, keeping up your communication with them will foster a relationship that brings them back when it is safe. For more ideas and tips about communicating with customers, visit www.independentwestand.org.
Bill Brunelle is co-founder of Independent We Stand, a cause-marketing campaign sponsored by STIHL, Do it Best Corp., PPG Paints and Nationwide Marketing Group, which is dedicated to educating communities about the importance and strong economic benefits of supporting locally owned businesses. Independent We Stand inspires small business owners across the country to celebrate their locally owned status and help consumers understand the importance of supporting them.
For more information, visit www.independentwestand.org.
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