Why customers are shopping at small businesses

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Vistaprint recently surveyed 1500 consumers* to gauge their opinions of shopping at or working with small businesses.

As you’ll see from the findings below, the future’s looking bright with consumers continually drawn towards independent shops and services in their area.

Community impact

77% of respondents said that shopping at or using a small business is important to them.

The main reason is the impact independent businesses have on their local community. Perhaps more surprisingly, this is even more important than price to most shoppers, with only one in five people questioned citing it as the most important reason for shopping small.

What can you do to create a positive impact in your community?

  • Fundraise for a local charity
  • Donate a portion of a sale to a worthy cause
  • Sponsor an event or raffle
  • Join local interest groups on Facebook and offer expertise and advice

Personal service

42% of consumers say that personal service drives their decision to shop small. 70% of consumers will support or shop at a small business more frequently if the owner knows their name.

60% of consumers prefer to interact in-store when shopping at a small business.

How to appear more friendly

Always use your first name when responding to customer queries via phone, email and social media. An email from “Paul” is way more personal than one from the “Support Team.”

Adding photos of you and your team to your website and social pages help people get a sense of who they’re talking to when making first contact online. And a brief description of each person’s role at the company with a fun fact about them is a popular way to break the ice and show there are real people behind your professional online presence.

Quality of products or services

36% of the customers surveyed shop at or work with a small business due to the quality of their products or service.

In fact, it’s the third most important factor in determining why customers choose to use independent businesses.

How to communicate quality

If you sell homemade consumable products, let people know about the origins of the ingredients as this gives people a reason to choose it over a cheaper big brand equivalent.

Or if you offer a specialist service, you might consider providing tips for free on your social media pages to position yourself as an expert in your community. Quick videos are a common and effective format to introduce your business in a personal way. You could even ask your followers if they have specific questions and tackle those queries in future videos.

Digital presence

70% of consumers feel it’s important that a small business has a website.

Consider including high-quality imagery and video, testimonials, employee profiles and your company’s story as these elements allow you to showcase your personal voice and that of your customers.

How to use reviews to your advantage

Ask customers to review your business on Google, Yelp, TripAdvisor, Yahoo! Local listings or Angie’s list.

Provide the same level of personal service on social media as you do in person. And show both positive and negative feedback to demonstrate that you’re transparent, trustworthy and make an effort to resolve any issues customers may have.

Also, did you know that news of bad customer service reaches more than twice as many people as praise for a good experience? On the flip side, someone who’s had a bad experience resolved quickly is very likely to recommend that business.

But you can’t please everyone. So, we put this guide together to help you respond to negative reviews in creative ways.


75% of consumers plan to shop small for the holidays.

85% of consumers in the Northeast plan to shop at independent businesses.

And the year ahead is looking bright, too!

Nearly 7 out of 10 consumers will continue to shop at small businesses throughout 2018.

Make the most of the holidays

The festive season is a great time to connect with your existing customers and attract new ones. If you have a physical space, create a cozy and inviting place to come in from the cold. After all, who can resist the irresistible aromas of mulled wine or ginger bread? Or maybe you could offer complimentary gift wrapping. These subtle incentives draw people in and create friendly associations with you and your business that last well beyond New Year.

Check out our Holiday preparation guide for more handy tips.

* Vistaprint surveyed U.S. consumers to uncover opinions about shopping at or working with a small business. The full survey was completed by 1,504 consumers aged 18+ across the United States from August 24 to 26, 2017.

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