It’s no secret that the COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound effect on the global economy.
However, small businesses have perhaps suffered more than any other, especially as many rely on in-store traffic and the support of a small customer base to keep going.
Since certain global restrictions have been lifted, some small businesses have found ways to come back and start serving their loyal customers again. It’s a challenging road with many adaptations to the new circumstances, but local communities have always been the lifeblood of small businesses, and they’ll likely stay an essential factor.
What’s more, supporting small businesses doesn’t require a significant donation or a high cost. Small acts of support can go a long way if enough people commit to them.
Read on and find out how you – and everyone around you – can support small business efforts in your local or national community with simple efforts that can mean a lot.
The government mandates and measures designed to protect people have made it especially difficult for small business owners. Many businesses have had to close their doors, some of them permanently. One report found that, during the first three months of the pandemic’s surge in the US, revenues for small businesses were down 40% overall, and 40% were forced to close.
Some businesses, however, have used clever adjustments to serve their customers without any human contact. This includes switching to online shopping, new food delivery models, and even reinventing their business models from the ground up.
Things may not be as bleak as during the peak of the pandemic, but the uncertainty about new measures continues to loom over small businesses, and it might be a while until we see them completely bounce back.
But why should you even support a small business? As it turns out, local businesses aren’t only providers of products and services, they also play an essential part in the economy.
Here are some reasons why small businesses matter.
Some of the most successful companies started in garages and coffee shops. They create an environment that allows other small businesses to flourish. Entrepreneurship inspires and facilitates more entrepreneurship, changing the business landscape of a local community in a few years.
When you look at local businesses, it’s clear how they can impact the community. They benefit from the localization of your purchases, and it helps local development: this is known as the multiplier effect. A restaurant might buy ingredients from local farmers and then hire a local design company to help them build relationships that will benefit the entire business community.
This might not always be the case, but smaller businesses usually have shorter manufacturing-to-consumer journeys. This means there is more transparency regarding the materials used in production and the source of the products you purchase. Many small businesses are also makers and produce goods locally. They may also be resellers of small-batch brands’ products.
Because of the smaller production volumes, small businesses can often source local and ethically manufactured goods. These goods may cost more than similar products at chain stores, but they assure ethical production.
There’s also a practical reason to shop local.
Large brands have recognized that retail is about immersive experiences, but it’s nearly impossible to scale small businesses’ intimacy and personalized care. Many business owners start their businesses and take on all the roles, including customer service and retail. Every customer is essential when you run a small business, so customers often get premium treatment when buying local.
Many small, local, and handmade goods brands cannot fulfil wholesale orders for larger chains. Customers can only purchase their goods directly from their website, sales channels, or independent retailers. So, small businesses excel in uniqueness and diversity, while department stores are more known for their high volume.
Here are some simple things you can do to support small businesses directly or indirectly.
Small businesses often use social media to promote their brand and market to existing and potential customers. It is also a great way to keep customers informed about the latest updates and developments, especially since everything is changing rapidly.
Many of the most popular platforms, such as Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook, allow users to share photos, videos, and written messages from business profiles. Instagram even introduced a special Story template to help promote small businesses.
Share a post from a small business you like via these platforms and help raise their profile.
Tell your followers how and why they can help. Even if only a few of your followers give them a like or buy their products, this is an action that costs you only a few minutes of your time. When done by tens or hundreds of people, it can make a big difference!
Word of mouth is one of the best ways you can show your support. Referring a small business to your family and friends will help them get new customers and possibly even new brand advocates, creating a snowball effect that can significantly impact their revenue.
Other people’s recommendations and experiences related to a brand’s products or services are an essential source of information for new consumers. They can be more relatable and trustworthy because they are written from the user’s perspective instead of following a brand’s advertising campaigns.
Word of mouth can also increase brand loyalty. One study found that referred customers are between 16% and 24% more loyal than other customers. So when you’re recommending a small business to your friends and family, you’re providing the small business with potentially precious leads.
If you’re pleased with a particular brand or product, this should come easy. So, start recommending the brands you care about and make an instant difference!
To continue on our previous point, word-of-mouth marketing doesn’t have to happen in person.
Online reviews and customer testimonials are the online form of word of mouth recommendations, and participating in one of these can have an immediate impact on other users.
Not many people leave online reviews for small businesses, so any feedback will help build their online profiles. Take the time to write a helpful review or give a product recommendation. If you don’t feel like coming up with a review, you can still write a single sentence, give them a 5-star rating, and you’ll have made a difference.
Additionally, some brands like to reach out to their customers for a testimonial that will later be featured on their website or social media. You can support small businesses by taking part in these efforts and sharing your positive experiences with others.
This is as easy as clicking a button on a website and entering your email address.
Email marketing is still one of the most powerful forms of digital marketing – it’s a form of direct communication with the customer. When done right, it could be used to send personalized recommendations.
Simply helping a business grow its subscriber base is already a good move. Still, you will also get real-time offers, deeper insight into the business’ values, and more information about the company through their emails.
Email can be a better option than social media because you will always have the latest information delivered directly to your inbox with zero effort from your side.
You might think that this would be going out of your way a little too much, but getting a website today is much more simple than it used to be.
Many website builders enable you to create a well-designed website with zero coding knowledge at very affordable prices. You can pay a small business for a website solution or, even better, create a website from scratch with a bit of help from their side.
Since many small businesses are traditional or in a challenging financial situation, they might not have an online presence at all. Helping them to get online is one of the best things you can do for them.
And, if you aren’t too confident in your web design skills, you can reach out to us at UENI. We’ll do everything for you, from design and coding to writing copy. The best part is that you can get all of this completely free.
Check out our pricing plans and take a look at all the options.
Buying someone a gift card in your favourite small business store can help that store make a profit and potentially give them a new customer. This is one of the best ways to spread brand awareness and refer a business to your friends or family.
Go through their website or ask the in-store staff about discount coupons, gift cards, and vouchers. They likely have some sort of gift program.
If not, you can always simply buy a gift and wrap it yourself. Spread the word and give people presents – talking about “two birds with one stone”!
Here’s an important tip that not too many people will know.
Say you order food from a restaurant, but you don’t go to them directly; you use a service like Uber Eats. You might think that this supports small businesses, but you’re actually doing them a small disservice.
Sites like Uber Eats and Grubhub have fees for restaurants that could reduce their already slim margins.
While ordering food for delivery will often be the only option, try to ask for curbside pickup from time to time. You’ll be helping the restaurant keep more of the profit. Many restaurants also offer their own delivery services in addition to being listed on online food delivery sites. Feel free to call up a restaurant and ask them if they do that.
If not, you can take a walk from time and do a good deed while staying healthy!
Small businesses rely on repeat customers, more so than large retail stores and other franchises.
Even though all businesses are always on the hunt for new customers, customer retention is an incredibly valuable strategy. Studies have found that getting a new customer can cost up to five times more than retaining an existing one. Long-time customers also tend to spend more than first-time buyers.
All of this suggests that a small business values loyalty. To support small businesses, try to resist going for the most convenient or cheapest option.
One of the most significant ways to help small businesses is to offer them your expertise. Whatever you do, you can almost certainly offer them a service or a skill they could use.
Here are some examples we have encountered in our experiences with small businesses all over the world.
While you’re walking around your neighbourhood, take a moment to look around. Have you ever visited an independent bookstore a couple of blocks away? What about that fast food joint that you never seem to check out, but their menu looks delicious?
One of the best ways to support small businesses is to get into that “discover” mindset and keep finding new brands.
To find out more about local businesses, ask your neighbours or consult review websites.
Think about it – the small business you now love was once a stranger. Take the time to try things out, and you might find your new favourite bakery, coffee shop, beauty salon, and more!
Small businesses aren’t nearly as capable of dealing with the new economic challenges as their enterprise counterparts. To survive (and eventually thrive), small businesses rely on us – the consumers.
Things have been looking up for a while, but it’s obvious we’re not in the clear yet. The period ahead will present us with new unique challenges that small business owners will, once again, have to rise to.
It’s up to us to do what we can to support them by making them a part of our consumer habits and going the extra mile. Recommendations, advocacy, and forms of direct help will all be appreciated. And, when everything goes back to normal, we will have stronger connections and stronger local communities gathered around the same goals.