Survey Shows How Small Businesses Can Grow Customer Loyalty

The relationship between a business and its customers is often a fragile one. Make one mistake or upset the consumer and they’ll remember that problematic interaction, likely sharing it with others. But if you treat your customers well, they will trust you and feel encouraged to return, according to a newly released study.

Unveiled this morning by Salesforce, a survey of more than 200 American adultsconducted late last October revealed that not only do people want to support local small businesses, they’re willing to shell out a little more if they trust that SMB more than they do a major corporation.

“Trust is that feeling when you walk away from an interaction with a brand or business and feel good about it – you were treated well, the experience was pleasant, and you’re happy with more than just the item or service you received, but the entire experience,” said Brett Grossfeld, product marketing manager for Salesforce Essentials.

In an effort to understand how small businesses can more consistently cultivate customer loyalty, researchers tried to find out where that loyalty stems from. What they found was that it comes from multiple yet very similar experiences.

When given a choice between a local mom-and-pop store or a major chain like Walmart, you know what you’re most likely to experience at either location. Primarily, you know that at the Walmart, you’ll likely have a modicum of convenience at the cost of personal connection to the location.

It’s that personal connection that really matters to consumers. According to researchers, 86% of respondents said they were willing to pay a little more to support a small business, and 47% said they often go out of their way to shop at locally owned businesses. If the transaction was a good experience, 85% of respondents said they were either always or sometimes likely to tell others about it.

According to the survey, there are five main reasons why people opt to support small businesses for a long time. Here’s the list, ranked in order of importance to the customer:

  1. There was consistently excellent customer service.
  2. The small business offered a more personal experience.
  3. The small business offered unique products or services.
  4. Over time, the business and its employees understand a customer’s needs or interests.
  5. The small business has a unique character or flair about it that seems attractive to customers.

According to the survey, 42% said “unique products and services” was in their top two reasons to choose a small business over a major chain, while 76% said they expected companies to “understand their needs and emotions.” The important takeaway, Grossfeld said, is that the positive experiences have to happen consistently over time. [Read related article: Understanding Your Customers’ Experience]

“When you have a few of those experiences over a period of time, you feel a sense of loyalty to that business,” Grossfeld said. “You want to go back there, because you know you’ll walk away happy. That’s what every small business should be striving for with their customers.”

While it’s important to provide that level of positive interaction and trust for your consumers, many small businesses may not know where to start. What researchers found was that small businesses should be willing to reach out and cultivate relationships with consumers anywhere.

According to the survey, 48% said they preferred to learn about their favorite businesses through their social media platform of choice, with email marketing coming in as the second most preferred method at 30%. To that end, email marketing solutions exist to ensure your small business gets into the inboxes of potential customers.

Over time, after a series of consistently good interactions between your business and your customers, people will begin trusting in what you provide as a small business owner. That trust is hard to come by but incredibly potent. According to researchers, 95% of respondents said they were more likely to be loyal to a company if they felt some trust for it. Similarly, 93% said they were more likely to recommend a company they trusted to others, and 92% said they were more likely to spend money at a company they trust.

When it comes to being open about their trust in a company and the good experiences they’d had, researchers found that 91% of respondents who identified themselves as millennials or Gen Z were likely to share their experience, versus 79% of baby boomers.

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