As consumers we are presented with unprecedented levels of choice as to where we shop. Today, we can order our weekly shop online, head down to the local butchers, or go clothes shopping at the latest international retailer to launch in Australia – we’re even able to read the news on our tablets and smartphones, meaning we don’t need to head to the local newsagent.
This new approach to retail and convenience is delivering many benefits for consumers – from reduced costs through to improved customer service – but retailers are finding it increasingly difficult to stand out from the crowd.
One particular area under threat in the current market is Australia’s small-business sector, and failure to address these challenges could have far-reaching implications on Australia’s economic success.
Australia’s small-business sector is critical to our nation’s economy. It contributes more than $340 billion to the economy and employs more than 4.5 million people. Without it, half of the private sector could find themselves unemployed, and our high streets would have a distinct lack of character.
It is for these very reasons that campaigns like the Shop Small movement, which is founded by American Express, are so important, as they assist in putting the spotlight on the small-business sector, which clearly punches way above its weight in terms of not only the economic contribution, but also the emotional benefits they deliver to our communities.
Despite the importance and benefits small businesses deliver, Australian consumers surveyed admit to increasing the frequency at which they shop at large businesses nine per cent more than at small businesses in the previous 12 months, according to ‘The Economy of Shopping Small Report’ from American Express.
If you’re a small business, what can you do to respond to the challenges in today’s age of consumer behaviour, to ensure the valuable contribution you make to our country’s success remains?
Don’t be afraid to stand out from the crowd
One thing dividing small businesses from their international counterparts is individuality. Be clear on your value proposition to the market, and champion the product or service you’re able to offer that no one else is. Once you’re clear on this, don’t be afraid to take a few risks in your marketing – a luxury not always afforded to big business – so you can attract new customers.
Meet your customers on their terms
People only ever remember how you make them feel, so make each customer feel like they are number one. Do this by engaging with each customer individually, whether that’s remembering a name or order, or simply greeting someone with a smile. The ability to be personal is a key advantage for small business over big, so make sure you make it work for you.
Always be on the move
Keep one eye on market trends and the other on your business’s economic health. The beauty of small business is it can afford to be nimble, so never stop striving to keep your business relevant to your customers’ needs and behaviour while not overstretching yourself. By doing this, your customers will always be your customers.
Ensuring your business embodies these characteristics today gives your customers a reason to shop with you – in fact, even with a 10 per cent increase in prices, 42 per cent of Australians interviewed said they would continue to support small, family-run businesses.
This is great news for you, Australia’s high streets, and our country’s future economic success.