As we welcome 2021, a lot is in flux — including the provincial and federal rules around doing business. The good news is, your customers — especially your loyal ones — want to support you. In fact, 76% of Canadian shoppers would prefer to buy from their favourite local retailers versus big-box multi-national companies. 34% of consumers even indicate that they would pay more for local products. But as much as your business environment is ever-changing, so are the buying patterns of your customers. They may not be comfortable walking into a shop or office, even in places where on-location interaction is allowed. Their new work routine may have taken them out of your neighbourhood. As shopping needs and behavior have changed — take time to think about how you can reconnect and communicate with your most important customers.
Whether you have a bricks and mortar storefront or a professional service, it’s time to do some marketing to restore communication between you and your clientele.
Here are five easy ways to stay connected, nurture loyalty and re-engage with customers in 2021.
1. Communicate When and How To Do Business with You
Things have yet to return to “normal” — so there is no one-size-fits-all approach to doing business. It’s important, therefore, to be as explicit as possible about your operating terms.
Your communications should answer customers’ main questions:
- Is your physical location open for in-store business?
- Can customers shop or book online for curbside pickup or service?
- What are your hours of operation?
- What safety measures are you taking? And, what are your expectations of your customers?
- Have you adapted to offer virtual interaction via video or phone?
Tip: To get the word out, start with the basics. Update your website’s homepage, keep your Google listing up-to-date, and post regularly on social media (including photos of daily deals and offerings is a great way to make it clear you’re currently doing business). And, if you’re lucky enough to have a CASL- compliant client list, email is a powerful way to connect directly with customers and communicate the latest news.
2. Leverage the “love local” movement
Sure, big online retailers are convenient, but most Canadians are still concerned about maintaining the character of their communities, supporting local business owners and keeping jobs within their neighbourhood.
If you’re a retailer, remind your customers what you sell, promote the quality of your goods and the reliability of your service — along with all the other benefits that come with shopping with you. This may include personalized help, your ability to source what might not be on the shelves, and your opinion on what is being purchased.
Tip: Consider setting up a Nextdoor business page. Nextdoor has recently launched ‘Open for Business’ powered by RBC to give businesses new tools to boost and grow their presence in their local neighbourhood. You can add your business to a new ‘Open for Business’ directory and access features that let you publish business posts, customize local deals and share vital information such as new opening hours, updated ways of operating or delivery options.
3. Make it easy for customers to buy from you
While larger retailers and service providers may have had the edge on convenience through the pandemic, small businesses are catching up quickly, with the rapid adoption of curbside pickup and other alternate buying options. Whether you offer virtual appointments, personalized chat and video service, eCommerce, free shipping, quick delivery, easy returns… or all of the above, make sure your customers know just how easy it is to do business with you.
Tip: Learn how to get your business online with these steps. Explore new ways customers can reach out to you including social media and web site chat.
“Customers now expect online service with a personal touch – from Google Chat, Facebook, and Messenger. My team has been available nearly 24-hours a day throughout the summer to handle retail traffic, questions, and information requests regardless of how they come in.” – Matt Bialek, BLAST-OFF Fireworks
4. Reward Loyal Customers
As you encourage clients to return to your business, make it clear that you value the relationship you have, and that you will reward them for their continued patronage. This is where a strong loyalty program comes in. Whether it’s a points program, free services with purchase, refer-a-friend promotions, or two for one discounts, creating a program that rewards recurring business will give your customers a reason to keep coming back.
Tip: Your existing client base is your low-hanging fruit — it’s much easier to re-engage your current customers versus attracting new ones, so applying your efforts here should be your priority.
5. Get creative and reimagine your products & services
Some owners have had their doors closed for significant periods of time — and they’ve adjusted. Small business owners are a resilient and creative. For example, hair salons have taken to selling exclusive products, many local restaurant are packaging meal kits, and fitness studios have pivoted to online classes. What can you do to keep customers engaged, even if it’s in a different way than before?
Small businesses are a critical part of the Canadian economy. While this might sound a bit sentimental or cliche, it’s true. You and your customers need each other to keep Canadian neighbourhoods vibrant, prosperous and connected. Find a way to convey this through language on your website, blogs, storefront messaging, or even in conversation.
Finally, although the world is a different place compared to the day you first started your business, think about the tactics that originally worked to attract customers and come back to them. While you might have some extra work to do, staying committed to your purpose, your values and your unique selling proposition will appeal to the customers who have been there for you before.
This article is intended as general information only and is not to be relied upon as constituting legal, financial or other professional advice. A professional advisor should be consulted regarding your specific situation. Information presented is believed to be factual and up-to-date but we do not guarantee its accuracy and it should not be regarded as a complete analysis of the subjects discussed. All expressions of opinion reflect the judgment of the authors as of the date of publication and are subject to change. No endorsement of any third parties or their advice, opinions, information, products or services is expressly given or implied by Royal Bank of Canada or any of its affiliates.