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How customer interaction is changing for small businesses

It's no secret that the high street has been on the decline across all regions for the last decade, and this is set to continue. Once the hub for small businesses, now SMEs are having to adapt to the changing behaviour of their customers in order to survive.

But with nearly 6 million businesses in the UK, of which 99.9% are SMEs, there's still plenty to celebrate. But how is customer interaction changing and how can a small business adapt in order to survive?

Less footfall

Across all sectors footfall has been on the decline, and 2020 in particular has been especially difficult. Since local and national lockdowns have been imposed, consumers are being more cautious not only about where and how they shop, but also how much they spend.

Unemployment is at one of its highest levels and customers are having to rethink their spending habits. For SMEs who have a physical store, there needs to be more of a draw than just goods or services on offer, customers are now seeking experiences. In order to attract greater footfall numbers, consider what you can offer to your customers that is unique to your business.

Online shopping

Over the next few years there will be an even bigger shift towards online shopping. Thanks in part to us spending the majority of 2020 indoors, older generations who were once dubious about shopping online have had to make the move and are finding it less threatening than originally perceived.

Similarly, Millennials and Gen Z are leading the charge when it comes to online shopping and mobile interactions. With business offering next day delivery, everything is at the touch of a button and continues to drive the consumers "want now" attitude.

For small businesses to compete, they need to look at their customer base and uncover what drives them to shop online. Is it cost, fast delivery, choice, or even safety and security?

More traffic through calls, social, and digital channels

As consumers shift to online shopping, we're seeing a drive in traffic from social and digital channels. The power of social media has been a huge opportunity for small businesses who are looking to promote their products on a platform that speaks to their customers. However, it also provides a public platform for customers to interact with brands – both negatively and positively. In order for a small business to adapt to this change in customer behaviour, responding to feedback online in a positive way is imperative for a brands reputation.

Similarly, as physical stores decline, SMEs are relying more heavily on calls and live chats to engage with customers. Companies like ResponseTap who help to monitor and track these calls are helping small businesses understand consumer behaviour.

More competitors

Consumers aren't loyal in the way they once were because of the number of businesses who sell other products. Now competitiveness should be at the heart of every business strategy. What sets your business apart from your competitors? The main draw for a consumer is often price point, but if you're customer services is poor, they won't turn into repeat customers or tell others about your service. On the other hand, even if your customer service far exceeds the competition, if your price point is greater, they won't convert.

Modern businesses must strike that fine balance in order for customers to invest in a small business; even then, they must continuously adapt to the ever-changing needs and attitudes of consumers in order to survive.

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