For a small business in the downtown market, competing against the mega-marts of the suburbs is rewarding and challenging at the same time. Lower price points and a car oriented culture have created an environment where big box is king. Fortunately, changes in consumer culture are creating opportunities for small business success in the downtown core. Here are five steps to winning loyal, repeat customers even through parking and construction obstacles.
Be unique or offer unique products and services. Create an experience that cannot be duplicated.
The volume of business that chain stores encounter is often so large that individual attention suffers. Small businesses have the opportunity to engage with customers in a one on one fashion that results in high customer service and repeat business.
* This can of course work against you if you do not employ the highest customer service standards. One bad interaction can create a snowball effect and damage your hard work and marketing efforts.
Here is one area that downtown businesses need to improve. Many small to mid-sized downtowns are still resurging. As residents move into the cities that were once commercial districts, businesses must remain open later in the evenings and on the weekends. Your location and hours must work together to provide you customers with an easy transactional process.
Create a loyalty program, an app or a newsletter. Get in front of your customers and offer them a discount or service for repeat business. I have the new Dunkin Rewards App. I use it almost daily because I know that my next coffee will be free. If there was local coffee shop with a similar reward system, I would much rather experience the service and quality of my local shop.
Get involved. Donate unused foods, run charitable campaigns, go green. Whatever your mission is, tie it to a cause and make a difference in your community and to those who invest in your products and services.
These ideas are not new, and not unique to small businesses, but they do have the effect of creating a stronger competitive advantage to the downtown business owner. Chain stores and large companies usually have the benefit of a lower price structure, but price is not always what keeps a customer coming back. Experience shopping is the future for retailers and small businesses. Give your customers a pleasant experience and they will be back, with friends.