What’s not to love? Small Business Saturday provides exactly what is written on the front packaging: a day dedicated to small business patronage. And good news, your small business is the honored host.
More than 100 million shoppers in the United States will spend an estimated $15 billion or more supporting local retailers on Small Business Saturday—if trends follow the results of previous years. Small Business Saturday should be an answer to ailing sales in small brick-and-mortar retailers, just as Black Friday has been to retail giants. But …
When we take stock of small business retail health over the course of the year, we applaud the spike in traffic seen on Small Business Saturday.
But the yearly financial figures paint a different picture: This shopping holiday fails to maintain sales momentum and sustain long-term small business success. For example, a survey conducted by the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) reveals the following:
- Fourteen percent of small businesses expect to slow down or go out of business by 2020
- Seventy-five percent of small business respondents cite rising operation costs as a possible reason for downturn
- Almost a third of small business owners expect this downward trend to get worse
In its eight-year history, Small Business Saturday has been little more than a flash in the pan to course correct for these deeper issues.
Still not convinced? Black Friday is a telling mirror. In recent years, Black Friday has not been enough to prevent the most successful brick-and-mortar empires from bleeding revenue or, in some cases, closing entirely.
Last year, Macy’s closed nearly 100 stores, JCPenney shuttered 138, and Toys R Us officially ceased business indefinitely in June. Finally, to cap off the year, the once U.S.-retail king, Sears—and its acquired Kmart brand—appear to be in their death throes.
One monumental day of shopping is not enough to buoy the financial drownings of brick-and-mortar retailers—of any size. And even the slight yearly reprieve seen on Small Business Saturday is on the decline: In 2017, Small Business Saturday sales were approximately 14 percent lower than in 2016.
Small business retailers do not need a shopping holiday; they need a sustainable business offering that galvanizes an audience the other 364 days a year. The good news is customers are making it clear precisely what pulls them to brick-and-mortar doorsteps: It’s customer experience (CX).
According to IBM Institute of Business Value:
- Seventy-six percent of consumers expect organizations to understand their individual needs
- Eighty-one percent of consumers demand improved response time
- Sixty-eight percent anticipate organizations will harmonize customer experiences
No longer can your business expect to provide a traditional brick-and-mortar customer experience and earn loyal customers. In fact, today’s customers crave personalized, engaging CX. They are satisfied only with a lightning-fast response to their problems. They expect instant solutions—strategic strikes!—to their needs at the store, on their phones, whenever and wherever they interact with your business.
It’s not enough for shoppers to make a pilgrimage to your business once a year—compelled by virtue of wanting to support local interests. Instead, all eyes should be on your small business and what it can achieve from this CX opportunity, and from there you can build committed customer relationships.
Small Business Saturday is an audition. Your small business needs to craft a polished, novel CX that delights first-time customers, retains loyal ones, and pays dividends in turnout throughout the whole year.
But how can your small business make CX its competitive advantage?
According to Gartner, 81 percent of CX leaders report they will compete mostly or entirely on CX, and yet, only 22 percent say their CX efforts exceed customers’ expectations.
Among the crowded field of small businesses, customer experience is a competitive differentiator. To win the war for customer interactions and engagement, your business must be critical of your existing methods, and work toward more memorable, accessible, and empowering CX.
Below is Gartner’s CX pyramid tool, adapted for small business use. This hierarchy displays customer experiences at various levels of impact. By using this pyramid as a model to assess current performance and chart future success, your small business can create more impactful CX for your primary audience.
Gartner Customer Experience Pyramid drives innovation and engagement (Source)
As GetApp’s resident data analytics eccentric, I believe that all our nagging problems can be solved with data. Today’s customers are won and lost on the battleground of CX—luckily, this is a data analytics opportunity. According to research conducted by business intelligence (BI) solution provider Dasheroo, 65 percent of organizations say they use data analytics to improve the customer experience.
With that in mind, use data analytics and BI to create customer experiences with impact. Here are five tips for each stage of Gartner’s CX pyramid to drive sustainable sales with fresh, engaging customer experiences.
Stage 1: Communicate – 52 percent of small businesses say they use data analytics to determine which markets or channels to sell to. Look to your customer data to sketch an accurate buyer persona of your target audience and meet them on their turf.
Stage 2: Respond – 51 percent use data to help choose when to begin their marketing campaigns. Timing is crucial; analyze historical sales data to pinpoint the prime time to go to market.
Stage 3: Commit – 66 percent of small businesses say data analysis helps them decide on which products and services to offer. Nothing puts a nail in the coffin of a trailing product or service more than condemning data; likewise, use data insights as a compass pointing to profit.
Stage 4: Preempt – Keep tabs on emerging technology and trends with 7 predictions for the future of data analytics. Data analytics in 2019 will be the year of the small business, accented by powerful technologies such as self-service tools, embedded BI, and natural language processing (NLP).
Stage 5: Evolve – To empower customers, elevate your CX by upending an antiquated approach to decision-making: Transform the art of business into science! There is no longer any excuse for small businesses not to be thrilling customers with data-driven innovation.