Small businesses that plan to be successful for the long haul should make customer engagement and creating connections a priority. Big boxes typically have a rigid chain of command with tiers of decision-makers. Communicating from the top-down often means the things customers want can get lost in the shuffle. Unlike these operations, independent retailers can personalize their service. Owners and store associates can get to know their customers by reviewing purchasing habits and quickly responding to shopper’s concerns.
Locally owned-and-operated businesses can have an advantage. Retailers who build a community of customers who want to rally around them are in a better position to thrive in the future. Sending communications and engaging customers can also differentiate retailers from competitors with similar business models. Customers appreciate retailers who following up with them after they make a purchase. Sending an acknowledgment moves customer service to the next level and makes the recipient feel appreciated. It’s also a way to foster loyalty and generate repeat business. Building a community requires work, but it can have measurable results.
Consumers expect retailers to offer a customized shopping experience. It reflects favorably on the retailer’s brand and creates trusted relationships. Forbes recently reported that 80 percent of consumers are more likely to make purchases from retailers who offer a personalized experience. Even more noteworthy, 91 percent of customers also want to receive recommendations.
Survey Customers to Get Feedback
One of the best ways to find out customer’s opinions about your business is to send out a short survey. It can be sent via email, text message, or posted on the company’s website. Not only will you find out what’s on customer’s minds, but you can also adjust your business based on their feedback. It’s a way to learn while building connections. Customers are helping to transform and shape the brand to ensure it remains relevant. Sending surveys every quarter makes the process manageable and avoids survey fatigue on the part of consumers. Keep in mind that people’s attention spans have gotten shorter due to media channels and communication devices’ proliferation.
- 5-minute surveys have higher response rates and increased level of customer satisfaction
- Surveys between 11 and 15 questions can take between 2 to 5 minutes to complete
- Questions should be simple. Ex. Are you happy with our website? Or use a rating system.
- Offering a small number of rewards can increase participation (ex. total of five $50 gift cards)
Sell Unusual and Exclusive Products
Independent retailers have the flexibility to offer unique products or sell merchandise sold exclusively through the independent retail channel. Customers want to feel a personal connection with the people with whom they do business. In this social world, your business success depends on a person’s willingness to invite you to join their community as someone they can trust to assist them with home improvement projects and expert advice. For independent retailers, building community is a two-way street. Selling products that aren’t typically sold at big box stores and are relatable to shoppers in the community can be a niche opportunity that builds traffics in-store and online.
Provide Service that Exceeds Expectations
Many businesses may find it difficult to admit their service is less than perfect. Survey results indicate 80 percent of companies believe they offer a “superior customer experience.” However, only
Eight percent of customers agree. It’s essential to provide customers with consistently positive shopping experiences to maintain good relationships and grow a community of customers.
- Deliver a problem-free experience. Customers don’t like unpleasant surprises or rude behavior. Being out-of-stock on popular products and seasonal merchandise can be irritating. It’s best to make customers aware when products are not available online before placing an order or taking a trip to the store. If possible, recommend a substitute product that’s comparable in price.
- Listen before reacting. Ask customers the right questions before recommending a product or deciding on a solution. This builds trust and shows the customer that addressing their concern is more important than making a sale.
- Know Your Business. Customers shop at the local hardware store or home center because they want advice from someone who can provide them with solutions for their projects. They assume you know more about what you sell than they do. Sharing information about products and services creates connections that can translate into future business.
When an establishment transforms into a community, it focuses on what customers need and establishes processes to maintain and grow the relationship. Taking small steps can increase communication and engagement. Sending thank-you notes or posting how-to videos for seasonal products are simple things customers appreciate.