Despite hard times and shrinking profits, Americans still shop at locally-owned, independent retailers.
A new small business survey from American Express polled 1,000 consumers aged 18 and older. Ninety-three percent of respondents believe that it's important to support local small businesses. And on average, they spend about one third of their monthly discretionary income at these stores.
How can you capitalize on this information?
Survey respondents primarily shop at small businesses because of friendly employees and product knowledge.
Additionally, 87% of respondents share favorable opinions about a business, while only 69% share negative feedback. The majority use word of mouth and social media. Only 13% use sites like Yelp! and Citysearch.
Do you already have the right employees with the right knowledge? If so, the small business survey seems to suggest that you should work on peer-to-peer advertising. Yelp! receives a significant amount of attention these days, but social networking appears to be a better use of resources.
Does your business have a Facebook? A Twitter account? You can use both to advertise specials, run contests, or let your customers know about new stock. Retweets and "Likes" are also the modern day "word of mouth."
For customers who are not technologically inclined, you could also consider a referral program. Offer a small discount to those who send business your way.
If you learn anything from the small business survey, it's this:
You should look for ways to use your high rate of customer satisfaction as a marketing tool. Encourage your repeat customers to share the love, and in return, maybe offer to share a little wealth.