Although COVID-19 and lockdowns have made it hard for small businesses to operate, these disruptions haven’t stopped people from spending money. The challenge for small businesses is how to get customers to shop local and spend their money with you – instead of the mega-conglomerates with million-dollar advertising budgets.
So how do you get Australian customers to support your local business? It’s surprisingly easy! Because unlike the big guys, you know your community.
As we start a new year, here are the top ways you can reach out to your local community and encourage more people to shop local.
1. Boost the shop local momentum
Let’s begin by discussing some of the ways you can show customers why your business is worth supporting. These areas will be a good place to initiate a positive connection with your customers, so that you can encourage them to buy from you later.
Entice with incentives
Convincing a customer to shop local once is great but keeping them coming back is the end goal. You can retain customers by offering discounts and loyalty programs to help them choose you for their next purchase. It’s inexpensive to set up, but incentives will help impress your customers and encourage them to buy from you again.
Focus on quality
People turn to big businesses for their purchases because they often provide a cheaper option. Local businesses may not be able to compete on price because they don’t have the same purchasing power as large businesses. Instead, you need to compete on customer service and product quality.
Show your worth
Explain how your unique or handmade products are superior to mass-made products from national or global chains.
Educating your local community is the best way to increase the perceived value of your products and services.
Once they believe it’s worth more than mainstream products, they’ll be willing to pay more.
2. Offer superior customer experience
First impressions count and many customers will often look online first –— even when they do shop local. That’s why it’s important for local businesses to focus on both online and offline opportunities to improve their overall customer experience.
By targeting customers from both angles, your business will have the upper edge at providing superior customer service to local markets. Here are three steps on how you can do this:
Step 1: Get listed with a Google My Business account
Every business needs to set up a Google My Business account that shows your service areas locally. It’s free, easy to do and is the best way customers can find you when they are looking to shop local. Even if you don’t have a website yet, that’s okay. You can still set up a Google My Business account without one.
If you do have a website, there are some key tasks you need to do to make sure you’re visible online. A successful website will:
- Provide easy navigation
- Include clear contact details and address on every page
- Engage audiences with a modern, eye-catching design
- Show who you are and the products or services you provide
- Explain the benefits of buying from you
Step 2: Consider investing in online conveniences
Next, investigate whether you can offer online ordering and home delivery. Even without lockdowns, many shoppers prefer the ease and convenience online shopping has to offer. Give them easy access to shop local by offering:
- Streamlined shopping experiences
- Local deliveries
- Exclusive deals to keep them coming back for more
Any time you can simplify the purchasing stage of the customer journey, you’ll automatically increase the chances of boosting your overall sales.
Step 3: Look for opportunities offline
Once you’ve refined your digital customer experience, it’s time to look at all the offline ways to impress your customers. Adding touch-free curbside pick-up is an excellent way to keep customers buying from you – even when your storefront is closed. Find an app that links to your website and create a seamless shopping experience.
Additionally, upping your street appeal is essential to getting customers in the door. So, if you haven’t already, start planning your displays and think about how you can make your physical space as inviting as possible.
Once you have customers in-store, give them a memorable and enjoyable experience that will keep them coming back.
Building a personal connection helps gain their trust and encourages them to shop local. As they get to know you, they’ll feel more comfortable buying from you. Be generous at how you share your expertise and establish a positive relationship by:
- Chatting with them
- Sharing your product knowledge
- Asking the right questions
Once you get them to open up, it’s much easier to help a customer find the best possible solution.
3. Tap into social media
Customers buy from brands that have the same core values as they do. If they’re passionate about caring for the environment, they’ll look for brands with sustainable practices. If they’re a human rights supporter, they’ll want to buy from ethical brands.
Your social media posts are the ideal way to educate people about your values and get them to shop local.
Showing them what you stand for helps bring like-minded customers to you.
Social media channels also provide the perfect chance to listen to your target market. If you’re selling baby blankets, try reading comments and conversations from mums on local Facebook groups. This will provide insight into what they’re looking for and the problems they have. Once you know what people want, it’s easier to create products and services that appeal to them.
Instagram, Facebook and Twitter also give you a golden opportunity to have direct contact with customers who shop local. Speaking with them, one-to-one, can tell you what they’re looking for and how best you can help. You could also offer them exclusive discounts for being in your local area.
4. Get in touch with your community
Word of mouth is one of the most powerful marketing tools, so don’t be afraid to ask for referrals. People often believe that because it was good enough for their mum, friend or boss, then it must be worth buying.
When someone buys from you as a referral, you can offer the referee a small discount as an incentive to keep sharing how much they love your business.
To connect with target audiences even further, try joining shop local events such as:
- Farmers markets
- Art and craft markets
Sometimes these can feel like a huge hassle to organise (staffing a stall for a whole day or event can be draining), but the rewards are huge. Even if you don’t have big sales for that day, every event helps boost your visibility and provides another customer touchpoint.
Bringing people together in the shop local community is a wonderful way to make a lasting impression and promote your business. If you make it a regular event (think monthly or annually), customers will anticipate your return and actively seek you out.
5. Join the conversation
If you share how your business sources products locally and supports other small businesses, you can expect your customers to respond by doing the same.
If customers can see how their purchase makes a difference, they are more likely to keep shopping locally. Keep your customers up-to-date with what’s happening in your business and share how their purchase supports your business. You can also highlight other positive impacts their purchase contributes to – like reducing their carbon footprint and boosting the local economy.
Consider teaming up with Small Business Australia
One way to show your support for shopping local is to join the Small Business Australia’s Buy Local program. Here, you’ll find:
- A host of free resources
- Savings on business expenses
- A display kit to promote how you buy locally
Not only will you be contributing to the shop local movement, but you’ll also gain access to the many perks this program has to offer.
Now is the perfect time to start boosting your business for the new year – especially since the best customers you can find are those right on your doorstep. Start planning your sales events early and remember to focus on offering:
- Excellent value
- Top-tier customer service
- A strong personal connection
These areas will be key in winning your customers over and help encourage them to keep shopping local.