A well-thought-out marketing strategy will help small businesses to retain their local customers


2020 has been an exceptionally difficult year for small businesses. While all companies, regardless of their size, have been impacted by the Covid-19 epidemic, SMEs have particularly suffered from the combination of government restrictions, repeated lockdowns and lower consumer spending.

Fortunately, they were supported by their local communities. This is what emerges from a study carried out by iStock on the behavior of French consumers vis-à-vis SMEs. 50% of respondents say it is important for them to support local small businesses in this difficult time for them.

If this attitude is comforting for the owners of SMEs, transforming these supports into real customers is another matter! Indeed, our study revealed that only 27% of those who say it’s important to support local brands have actually changed their consumption habits. 26% of respondents admit that they consume more from large distributors and brands since the start of the pandemic.

Despite these disappointing data, small businesses have several advantages over their major competitors. Our research, for example, showed that customers are more than three times more likely to be treated personally and liked by small merchants than by large distributors. Better still, 39% of customers claim to have the feeling of being treated better when they approach SMEs. The challenge for them is therefore to build on the trust and loyalty of consumers to make them long-term customers.

What do SMEs need to change to develop their attractiveness? First of all, they must act! The first step, and arguably the most important, is to rethink their marketing efforts. Improving their communication and marketing content would encourage customers to come to them. Here are my three tips to help them boost their communication and turn good resolutions into buying acts.

Express convenience

This is the main reason that drives consumers to large distributors In our study, almost two-thirds (63%) of those who responded that they had increased their spending at major brands in the past year did this for convenience, because they can find almost everything they need in one place.

Small businesses should strive to show that shopping at home is as easy and convenient as it is in a department store. They could, for example, focus their marketing on delivery and return options, on a wide range of products or on the many payment options …

Intelligently target and personalize

Young consumers are particularly concerned about supporting the local economy. Our study showed that the vast majority (83%) of Millennials who visited small businesses much more did so precisely because they wanted to contribute and support them.

How can SMEs target this audience? Consumers of Generation Y and Generation Z respond better to different forms of marketing. And not surprisingly, social networks have their preference. Video and image ads on social networks have an impact on almost half of the young people of these generations. To better target them, SMEs should contact them via these networks.

Create content that goes well

Creating marketing content is no easy task, but it’s much easier if you know which content is for which audiences. iStock draws on its resources and expertise in creative trends. Here are some insights into the most compelling content for consumers today.

Funny topics and the environment are tied for the top content consumers want to see right now. SMEs that source locally or are particularly environmentally friendly can use this advantage in their marketing.

While the pandemic affects everyone, 35% of consumers expect content to reflect what they are experiencing in their daily lives. They are only 10% waiting to be shown people they would like to look like. They much prefer to identify with marketing content and visual representations.

Values ​​are very important when it comes to marketing content. As proof, 35% of consumers are more likely to buy in small businesses or local stores if they find their values ​​there. We observed such behaviors in our Visual GPS survey last year, one of which found that 6 in 10 people prefer to buy brands created by people who look like them or represent people like them.

Finding quality images, illustrations or videos on platforms like iStock to illustrate marketing content will allow SMEs to ensure that their message is perceived by their customers in a relevant way. And will save them significant copyright costs!

The past year has been difficult for everyone. For small traders, it was particularly discouraging, especially if they had to lower the curtain during lockdowns while supermarkets continued their activities.

However, small retailers should keep in mind that they have strong support from their communities who want to see them not only survive but thrive. With this support and thanks to a few marketing tips presented here, they stand a good chance of turning the goodwill expressed into buying acts in the coming months and beyond.

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