The mass appeal and growth of major retailers and ecommerce is presenting new challenges to small business owners and the one-on-one customer experience. As online shopping has taken over the retail landscape, how does a local business differentiate itself in the market? By strengthening the relationship it has with its community.
Here are four ways to tackle the challenge head on.
1. One of kind. Business owners must promote the novelty of your business: Become the alternative that they didn’t know they wanted. Show customers that the experience or product you provide cannot be replicated, that it is truly one of a kind. Be a welcoming presence to returning customers and those just getting acquainted with your business. Make your business not only a place where people can go to purchase the things they like, but also a space to share interests.
This is where you can really get creative. Say you own a record store. Consider hosting a concert with local artists. If you run a book store, organize release parties, readings, and signings to get customers in your doors. Own a restaurant and want to add new items to your menu? Sample them to visitors to gauge reactions. Direct feedback will establish better relationships with customers and leave lasting impressions that will encourage their return. Further entice customers with frequent contests, raffles, promotions for a chance at special discounts, gift certificates, prizes, or free items of their choice.
2. Honor your roots. If you are from the community, take part in it. Sponsor events or organizations and offer donations or help fundraise for local nonprofits. Doing this can further elevate your presence and contributions back to your community. If you are a younger business just finding your footing, host a grand opening or other promotional events. The addition of something new is a perfect way to attract customers, get the word out, and get introduced to the community. If you have been in the area for a long time, make that a selling point. Celebrate anniversaries to make it known just how long your business has called an area home. This only enhances the reception of your business as a community staple.
3. One on one. Being local allows you to have more interaction with the community than most other businesses. Use this to your advantage when your business is looking to evolve in order to attract or retain customers. Let your customers know that you’re looking to make changes, and let them be part of it. Engage with them by handing out surveys, designing an online questionnaire, or speaking with them in person to determine the experience they are looking for. Everyone can voice an opinion or offer valuable advice. Initiating this dialogue will not only solidify longtime customers, but possibly create opportunities to attract new ones as well.
4. Embrace the new age. Build your following on social media. This is undoubtedly one of the cheapest and most effective tools to spread the word about your business. But, don’t create social media accounts just to have them. Create a strategy and take a look at similar businesses and the social media outlets they use. Think about how your accounts will be maintained and what sort of content you want to put out there. Encourage customers to follow you by offering content that is useful or exclusive to your account.
While the big guys may be just looking for another sale, show your customers that you can do so much more. Taking the right steps to evolve with the community you serve will help your business stay innovative and maintain its unique charm as a local gem.