Back to SME: SOS

Localisation saves the day

If you’re an independent retailer and have just reopened your doors (or plan to shortly), please read this! Because whilst the past 3 months has seen a big push towards shopping local and supporting small, now is the crucial time to retain this heightened awareness that we’ve worked so hard for!

I’ve been reading about the impact of the pandemic for various industries, and how it has ‘sped up’ certain trends – with more conscious shopping habits being one of them. But I loathe to use the word trend, as I so hope that this is not a passing phase but a new age of retail and consumerism overall.

So whilst I’ve spent much of the week pouring over Instagram, delighted to see the most colourful, innovative and fun independents reopening, there’s a pretty loud voice in my head saying that now is SUCH an important time, for small businesses to shine as brightly as they can. To be a beacon of joy and hope, and truly win over the hearts, and shopping habits, of consumers – for good.

My top tips for small businesses right now:

Instagram

Social media is your digital window and it should be as enticing as your actual window! Keep in touch with your customers everyday with your latest news, arrivals and shop updates – especially now when people are looking online to check opening hours and restrictions before heading out the door! And remember it’s called SOCIAL media – you can build hugely valuable relationships with your followers via comments and DMs, all whilst you’re sat on the sofa. I chatted to Gord Ray from Instagram on my IG LIVE this week and he shared so many tips – you can catch it here!

Retail theatre

I’ve long spoken about the power of retail theatre, ever since Bill Collinson, founder of Bill’s, gave it a name when I interviewed him on Conversations of Inspiration! Essentially, it is the experience one has when they’re in your store, and it’s so incredibly powerful. Even more so right now, when people are craving the familiarity of things such as popping to the shops, and with many people opting to walk to their local high street over a drive of bus ride to the nearest retail park, this moment in time could be pivotal… IF we get it right. So make sure you’ve primped and pruned your shop, nailed your social distancing measures and give the best customer service of your life!

Last week I spoke to Mark Constantine, founder of LUSH, and Roger Wade, founder of Boxpark. Two prolific voices in experiential retail offering invaluable insight and advice! You can listen to the SME: SOS podcast special here, and watch my interview with both Mark and Roger too – notebooks at the ready!

We’ve also created a range of fun social distancing stickers to help you manage the new rules in your store, and have our Shop Independent collection, filled with badges, banners and prints to declare your independence!

Connection

On the topic of customer service, small businesses have a secret weapon that chains just can’t get – the ability to genuinely connect and build relationships with their customers. So be sure to smile and chat with your customers, giving them your full attention when needed. Listen to their tales of lockdown, and tell them yours! Let’s not let the ‘great pause’ go to waste – we all need human connection more than ever. Be friendly, know when to be attentive and when to step back, share the story of your business and I’ll bet you’ll make lifelong customers of some of the people coming through your (freshly painted and reopened) door.

I know it’s already the busiest, most challenging time, but if there’s one thing small businesses have in spades, it’s grit and determination! In the words of Albert Einstein “In the middle of every difficulty lies opportunity” and now is our opportunity to communicate our magic, and the human experience that we offer, that the chains and corporates just can’t match!

We must collectively do all we can to capture this moment and make it stick, so the enthusiasm for shopping local and independent doesn’t disappear!