By: Michael Mainella and Rahul Guhan
Retail giants seem to be running the world lately. McDonald’s, Amazon, Apple, and Walmart are just a few household names that began dominating their respective industries at the turn of the century. Amazon itself made over $54 billion in quarterly gross profit in 2021. As a small business owner, you may be wondering if these companies will be the reason you close up shop. However, there are some major advantages these powerhouse retailers are missing out on. Here are a few ways you can leverage your power as a small business.
Convenience is king for companies like Amazon and Walmart. They want to get you your product as quickly and efficiently as possible. While this can be very attractive to some consumers, it allows elements of their business models to slip through the cracks. Recently, there have been growing concerns over the quality, legitimacy, and even safety of products sold through these major retailers. Amazon, for example, obtains their products mainly through independent sources, meaning they personally do not even oversee the manufacturing of what they sell. This is a major advantage for small businesses. Your name is attached to your product. Customers know exactly where to go if they don’t like what they got. And while this may seem intimidating at first, it is a fantastic way to establish trust and a relationship between the buyer and seller. It only takes a few happy customers to bolster your name. Ariel Horton, a lifestyle and leisure analyst for major database platform Mintel, studied consumer behavior regarding this. Horton found that from a survey of nearly 1000 millennials (the largest generation in the US), 61% would pay more for a product that is better quality. Only 7% pick the cheapest option every time. To bring your target audience away from the convenient retailers and into your store, make sure your product is of high quality. It may even give you the opportunity to increase your margins.
Having high-quality customer service is a tangible capability that your business can leverage to compete with larger operations. Having excellent customer service is incredibly important because 90% of Americans use customer service as a factor to decide whether to do business with a company. Given how your business operations are, you will be able to deliver personalized customer service. One example of this would be responding to reviews on Google or Yelp, whether the reviews are positive or negative. This makes your customer feel appreciated and heard, especially if their experience is negative. There are many other ways to interact with the world of consumers as well. Two Cumberland, a small boutique clothing store located in Charleston, South Carolina, differentiates itself from major competitors with customer experience. Visitors are always greeted by a welcoming staff ready to help them with any of their needs. On weekends, free refreshments are served. They even have themed parties, such as for the Masters, where a small putting green was set up and customers who got a hole in one received a 10% discount. This sort of activity not only makes shoppers feel appreciated, but it also is an experience retail giants like Amazon and Walmart do not currently provide.
Getting Involved in the Community
A straightforward and very advantageous aspect of your business is that you are tied to a specific community. Retailers with only one or a few locations can make a much bigger splash in that area than a nationally or an internationally large brand. The best way to strengthen your business’s connection with those smaller communities is by engaging them. For example, donating products or services to auctions or a nearby school. A more affordable alternative could be volunteering at a local charity or sporting event. Oxford Pennant, a pennant designer, and manufacturer from Buffalo, NY, interacts with the region through their enormous support of the local sports team, the Buffalo Bills. From Instagram features to the creation of a one-of-a-kind truck, it is fascinating how this company was able to plant itself in the hearts of every Buffalonian. In any case, community involvement showcases your brand and its values in the best way possible. This becomes a definite selling point for your customers. A decision between retailers is greatly impacted when one is seen supporting others.
While it may seem overwhelming and intimidating to compete with some of the largest companies in America, it is important to not underestimate the value small retailers can bring. Quality, personalized service, and community interaction are the roots of good business practice, and people will recognize and appreciate that. The relationship you have and develop with your customers is what will make your business succeed.