As small business owners, we love to get behind the “shop local” movement and encourage our customers to think locally before they decide to shop online or send their orders out of town. By now, our customers are well aware of the benefits of shopping locally – and if all things were equal, most of them would likely choose to support local businesses as a first option.
Unfortunately, things aren’t equal and local business owners must work harder than ever before to win customers over their high volume/low cost competitors. You might not always be able to compete on price or volume, but here are three areas where you can outshine your competition:
1) Product knowledge – Many retailers are so big that their employees are spread thin. Oftentimes, their product-knowledge is limited to little more than the particular location of the item in the store. They can point you in the right direction, but they often lack the depth of product knowledge that an expert can provide.
2) Unique shopping experiences – “Big box” retailers thrive on consistency. The inside of a Target store in Georgia looks nearly identical to a Target in Oregon or Texas. That consistency is great for customers looking for a particular item, but it also takes the fun and excitement out of discovering something unusual or unexpected. Small local shops have the ability to change inventory often enough to provide a new experience every time a customer walks in the door.
3) Personalized service – Small businesses thrive on relationships and attention to detail. Consumers often set out to find the best deal, but low cost isn’t always the most important factor in buying decisions. Many consumers are willing to pay a little more in order to shop with people they know and trust, provided the personalized care and service that they can’t find elsewhere.
It doesn’t matter how often or how nicely we ask, consumers ultimately make decisions based on their own best interests. It’s up to us to reach beyond the usual talking points and give them a tangible reason why shopping with us is best option for their needs.