Answering that question correctly can spell the difference between surviving this recession or disappearing into history.
Unfortunately, there is no simple template for figuring out what matters
to your customer because the buying experience involves tradeoffs that
are unique for every location and product mix.
Price is increasingly important as money and credit dry up, but it is not the overriding consideration in making purchases. Convenience and being treated as a valued customer and getting your needs met in an emotionally satisfying manner are all part of the buying experience.
A local business needs to offer goods at a competitive price and a buying environment that adds pleasure to a customer's life. This is not easy when there are big box stores that buy products in shipping container quantities.
A small business may still have a competitive edge in these areas:
- Unique items or quantities at competitive prices
- Personal customer service
- Convenience and speed
Success as a local business depends on selling items that the big stores do not carry or by providing support services and information that mass retailers cannot provide, or by offering convenient shopping for commonly needed items. These are different business models and a local business may incorporate elements of all three.
Last of all, the business environment can be a deciding factor. It is not a matter of how tastefully decorated or how spotless the store is. What matters is how the environment meets the customer's expectations.
The interior of an auto repair shop like Protocol Automotive of Floyd Virginia may be a bit rough and ready, but it gets consistently high marks because of the excellent work done and the professionalism of the owner. What you see at Protocol is purposeful action and that is what counts.
The Blue Ridge Restaurant of Floyd makes patrons feel at home because it is "cozy" and the service is friendly. It is a country diner and delivers country food at affordable prices in plain surroundings.
On the other hand, the Bell Gallery and Garden, a gift shop in Floyd Virginia, sells extremely affordable trinkets and craft items in an exquisite high-end gallery environment. This provides customers with a memorable buying experience at a great price and an added bonus of giving a gift from a highly respected source.
Organizations that survive this recession will have figured out what matters most to their customers.
What feedback have you gotten from your customers? How do you think you could get more of this information?