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It’s National Small Business Week – it’s your time to shine!

As of last year, there were 30.2 million small businesses in the United States. If you really think about it, the majority of businesses in your town fall into that category. And it’s a good thing too — according to the Small Business Administration, 93.2% of consumers shop at local merchants within 20 minutes/miles from home, and most will typically travel no more than 10 minutes from home for frequent purchases made once or more per week.

Convenience is surely one of the main factors in choosing to shop local. You’re not going to make a road trip for a latte or hop a flight across the country for a pack of smokes. But what really defines why consumers would frequent one small business over another? Price? Maybe. But when you think about it, most retailers are operating on similar margins, so a few pennies aren’t that much of a factor. The greatest opportunity for small businesses to set themselves apart from the competition (and that really means the big box stores and online retailers) is by tailoring every touchpoint to the individualized customer experience.

Consumers put a high premium on customer service, with 86 percent stating they’re willing to pay more for better experiences — that’s according to a new survey by 8×8, Inc., a leading cloud provider of contact center solutions. These experiences are also more likely to have long-term benefits for small businesses, with 57 percent of consumers stating they’re more likely to leave a favorable review for a small business after a positive experience, compared to a larger brand.

Polling 1,000 consumers in the United States ages 18 and above, the survey also found that nearly all digital-biased millennials (94 percent) are willing to pay more for better customer service.

Small businesses are held to a different standard than large brands. While consumers do think a personalized experience is important (82 percent), personalization is not necessarily expected. Nearly 60 percent of consumers polled don’t expect small businesses to know their purchase history. So, you’re probably not going to know the favorite brand of every customer that walks through your doors — but here are a few ways you can

Provide Friendly, Helpful Service

A positive in-store experience starts with a friendly, helpful staff. Employees should be eager and happy to help customers find what they need or answer their questions. They should be educated on the products being sold, so that they may answer questions or address issues immediately. Employees should also be able to relate better to shoppers and connect with them in a memorable way. The goal is to shift the customer’s perception from employees being salespeople to them being friends.

Create User-Friendly Products and Spaces

Streamline experiences by providing stores that are easy to navigate and products that are easy to use. The amount of effort exerted when interacting with your brand in any form should be as little as possible.

Reward Your Regulars

One of the best ways to keep customers coming back is to reward them for their loyalty. Set up a loyalty program like Fivestars that gives customers discounts, gifts and exclusive offers.
Research shows 76 percent of women and 72 percent of men are likely to shop at a business that offers a loyalty program, according to CrowdTwist.

Why do loyalty programs work? Customers want to feel appreciated. After all, they can choose to spend their money anywhere, and they’ve chosen you — so you should return the favor.

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