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    Small businesses have edge, says new report

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    A good majority of shoppers struggle to locate an employee to help in bigger shops, a recent report has stated, highlighting how small business owners have the edge and hold the key to consumer hearts.

    According to a recent survey of 1,500 online and in-person shoppers, conducted by Tyl by NatWest, three-quarters of savvy shoppers who shop at both small businesses and large retailers admit that it’s the cost efficiencies that draws them to the retail giants. Yet, interestingly, 38 per cent attribute their loyalty to larger stores due to limited access to smaller shops in their local area.

    However, the pull of discounts isn’t always enough as a staggering 68 per cent of respondents confess to struggling to locate an employee to help in bigger shops.

    Amidst this retail balancing act, small business owners through personal touches like warm welcomes, complimentary samples and exclusive birthday discounts create a shopping experience that goes ‘above and beyond’. However, small business owners should be aware of the potential pitfalls – pricey shipping, delivery issues and prolonged dispute resolutions can cast a shadow on customer satisfaction.

    The report further adds that 44 per cent of shoppers cite the cost-of-living crisis as the primary factor influencing their decision to tighten their purse strings over the next 12 months.

    27 per cent of consumers express a preference for businesses championing sustainability and ethical practices. Locally, almost half (49 per cent) shop with community in mind, while 48 per cent  really want to support their small business owners.

    A third of respondents (34 per cent) opt for local businesses over their larger counterparts, be it online or in-store. And despite potential higher costs, 26 per cent of shoppers think the economic climate is an opportunity to champion smaller, independent suppliers.

    More than 25 per cent of shoppers check a small business’s reviews before making a purchase. This underscores the need for SMEs to display reviews to attract customers who rely on them for purchasing decisions.

    Despite the allure of online convenience, 64 per cent prefer the physical shopping experience, enjoying the chance to try before they buy (71 per cent), with 59 per cent eager to carry their goods home immediately.

    Mike Elliff, CEO at payments provider Tyl by NatWest, said, “The cost-of-living crisis has changed a lot of things, including how and where people shop. This means businesses need to look after their customers better than ever.

    “Prioritising customer satisfaction is not just a good business practice, but an essential lifeline for small business growth and survival.

    “Business owners have the power to greatly influence consumers even before they have started physically or digitally looking at products and services to purchase. Considered and personal touches can go a long way to positively position a business well in advance of the point of sale.

    “Customer loyalty, trust, and word-of-mouth recommendations become invaluable assets, and the businesses that go above and beyond to meet their customers’ needs will not only weather the storm but emerge stronger on the other side.

     Elliff added, “Shopping at small businesses will keep the heart of a community beating.

    “It not only supports the livelihood and dreams of locals but also nurtures unique craftsmanship, fosters personal connections, and ensures that every purchase goes the extra mile.”

    TOP TEN TOUCHES SHOPPERS WANT FROM A SMALL BUSINESS: 

    1. A warm welcome
    2. Complimentary samples
    3. Birthday or anniversary discounts
    4. Handwritten thank you notes
    5. Them getting to know their customers on a personal level
    6. Handmade products
    7. Personalised loyalty programmes
    8. Early access to sales or events
    9. Follow up calls or messages
    10. Customised packaging

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