By working hard to stay relevant and provide a great customer experience, small business owners can continue to win shoppers over. Here are four reasons your customers keep coming back for more.
These days, shopping for goods and services can be as easy as one click. Consumers hold a wealth of inventories, reviews and shipping options in the palm of their hand with their smartphones and tablets. Still, the love that Americans show for small and local businesses signals that ease isn't everything.
Last year, more than 104 million Americans shopped or dined at a small business on the ninth annual Small Business Saturday, according to American Express and the National Federation of Independent Business's 2018 Small Business Saturday Consumer Insights Survey. It also shows those consumers spent a record total of $17.8 billion. The big-time shop-small occasion even saw support from the likes of Ariana Grande, Justin Timberlake and Venus Williams.
This turnout represents a more profound, ongoing connection between Americans and their small businesses. According to American Express – which sponsors and organizes Small Business Saturday – 96 percent of consumers who participated in Small Business Saturday last year felt inspired to shop small all year long. In other words, even in the age of two-day shipping and drone delivery, customers continue to appreciate small businesses for the value they bring to communities across the country. Here are four reasons why.
1. Business is personal.
Shopping small is about more than a transaction. It's about putting a face with a product and getting to know the people behind the business. When a consumer walks into a big-box, national chain store, the store's owners will not participate in the transaction at all. In fact, thanks to self-checkout or in-store pickup options, it's possible that the customer interacts with no one while shopping at the store.
That experience is fundamentally different from the type of transaction that takes place at a small business. There, a consumer can walk through the door and meet face to face with the business owner or their family member. The small business experience makes customers feel welcome and enjoy their shopping excursion. By keeping things personal, small businesses make meaningful connections with their customers.
2. Shopping small makes dollars and cents.
More than a good feeling, shopping small also brings real prosperity to the community. For every $100 that consumers spend at small and local businesses, $68 stays in the local economy through local taxes, salaries and other forms of reinvestment, according to the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies. By contrast, national chains and big-box businesses reinvest less than half as much per dollar of sales.
Small businesses also create more jobs for local workers. Unlike chain businesses that may look to transplant out-of-state talent when opening a new location, small businesses stay local, bringing out the best the community has to offer. Finally, small businesses foster resiliency in the local marketplace. With several small, independently owned businesses, the local economy can better withstand an economic downturn and adapt to new trends. By creating a more resilient and more prosperous economy, small and local businesses earn their consumers' trust and respect.
3. Expertise counts.
Small, local businesses often specialize in a particular niche, product or industry. Unlike big-box superstores, these shops and service providers aren't just in the business of selling things. Instead, they're in the business of making, curating and recommending the right solution in their area of expertise. The fourth-generation hardware store owners on Main Street and the career-change food truck operators down the block do more than sell – they live out their passions. That passion leads to unmatched expertise that doesn't often exist at superstores and online retailers. This passion and expertise help give consumers confidence in their purchases and respect for their salespeople.
4. Work goes beyond the storefront.
Small businesses care about their customers and the community at large. Small business owners and supporters work together through Main Street organizations, including small business associations, Local First programs and downtown improvement districts. These groups create opportunities for the entire community to celebrate, get active or pitch in for a local cause. They organize seasonal events, raise money for charity and create a sense of community around town. By working together in these groups, small businesses enrich the community beyond their storefronts.
What's more, that work has a profound impact on the community's residents and consumers. Main Street organizations have generated $74 billion in local reinvestment, 614,000 new jobs and 138,000 new businesses since 1980, according to the National Main Street Center. That means more jobs, better services and more options in the local marketplace.
In today's market, consumers don't have to shop small or buy local to find the items they need and want. Nonetheless, they choose to do so in droves because of the experience that small businesses create in the store and in the community. Small businesses work hard to stay relevant, and that work ends up benefiting the community as a whole.