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Updated: Nov 14, 2018
For business owners, the holiday season is a prime time to attract new customers, ramp up sales, and secure the loyalty of returning customers. But it can be tough to compete with the discounted prices and convenience of e-commerce retailers like Amazon.
There’s good news, though! More consumers are making an effort to support small businesses. According to a recent survey Funding Circle conducted, 76% of Amazon Prime members and 77% of all consumers said they were willing to pay more for an item from a local, independent business, rather than buy the same item on Amazon. Sixty percent of those respondents said they would pay a 10% premium or more.
The reason? They want to support small business owners (76%), help support local jobs (70%), and keep money within their communities (68%).
Sydney Snelten, an influencer marketing specialist, prefers to shop at small businesses instead of using Amazon. “No matter how big or small [my purchase],” she said, “I am contributing to the well-being and livelihood of a real person with a real story.”
Snelten isn’t the only one. In the survey, a large majority of consumers (74%) said they did at least some of their holiday shopping at small businesses last year. Roughly 60% of respondents said they’re planning to do the same this year, while about 20% of respondents said they plan to do more holiday shopping from small businesses.
Shopping local is “better for the economy of your community, and it is more unique and special,” said Valerie Shaindlin, a writer who deactivated her Amazon account over a year ago.
While it’s true that more and more consumers understand the value of shopping small, it’s still important to focus on setting your business apart this holiday season.
Here are three things you can do to draw customers and stay competitive.
It’s impossible to match Amazon’s product range and variety, but it is possible to create (or cultivate) specialty, high-quality products people can’t find as easily online. Think: ocean-inspired jewelry made with sustainable materials, handmade pottery, or quilts woven by a local artist.
“My absolute favorite experience was finding a hand-carved wooden sign from the show ‘Friends’ last year,” said Alex DiBacco, a fashion and lifestyle blogger who tries to only shop at small businesses around the holidays. “There’s nothing like it sold online, so it’s super unique and memorable.”
Focusing on the quality and originality of your products can go a long way in differentiating your business from Amazon. You may not appeal to the masses, but you’ll have a better chance of attracting the customers you’re equipped to serve.
As a small business owner, you can provide a level of customer service and attention to detail that giant online retailers can’t. Shopping on Amazon may be speedy, but clicking around online is a fairly sterile activity compared to the sensory experience of browsing a beautiful store.
“When it comes to a unique shopping experience,” Snelten said, “personalization and presentation goes a long way.” In fact, 31% of the survey respondents said they’d be more inclined to shop at small businesses if the shopping experience was better.
Start by improving your store’s ambiance, either by rethinking your visual merchandising design, clearing clutter so it’s easier for customers to walk around, or painting the walls to create a brighter, more inviting atmosphere.
Next, brainstorm ways to make your customers feel cared for. Consider offering free gift wrapping with each purchase or setting up a coffee station for patrons to sip as they browse. For Snelten, branded packaging and handwritten notes are special. Those are “the added touches that continue to make me feel valued and consistently re-confirm my trust and loyalty,” she said.
Your business’ biggest advantage over Amazon is location. People want to support their communities, and that includes patronizing local businesses.
This holiday season, find ways to give back to your community. Consider donating a certain percentage of each sale toward a local charity, for example. Or, if you sell prints and greeting cards made by local artists, for example, try hosting a cocktail hour to celebrate the artists’ work.
Another idea, said Shaindlin, is to partner with other local businesses to host a trunk show. “I think these events are a great way to compete against Amazon,” she said, “which cannot or does not yet provide regional, in-person experiences.”
Participating in community activities won’t just help you meet and attract new customers — it’ll also help you earn the loyalty, and potential referrals, of current customers.
Competing with online retailers may be intimidating, but the good news is most consumers want to support local businesses and their owners. Use these strategies to further attract customers and make the most of this holiday season.
Paige Smith is a Content Marketing Writer and Senior Contributing Writer at Funding Circle. She has a bachelor's degree in English Literature from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, and specializes in writing about the intersection of business, finance, and tech. Paige has written for a number of B2B industry leaders, including fintech companies, small business lenders, and business credit resource sites.