Loyalty is Crucial for Small Businesses

Customer Loyalty
Small businesses make a large portion of their profits during the holidays. And new shoppers tend to become repeat and loyal customers, making next week's Small Business Saturday all the more important to ace.

With just a week until Thanksgiving, retailers are in full swing preparing for what is the busiest time of the year. These next weeks can make or break a business and most organizations are striving to make sure it's the latter.Holiday decorations have been cropping up in the past weeks as retailers attempt to get foot traffic into their stores. At the same time, the number of promotional emails and mailing materials have increased exponentially, reminding customers that it's never too early to start doing their holiday shopping.

For many retailers next Friday is the busiest day of the year, although we're seeing an increasing number of organizations opening their doors earlier and earlier on Thanksgiving, barely leaving enough time for people to digest their turkey dinner.

While the larger retailers tend to get the most attention, small businesses are doing their best to be competitive and customers are being encouraged to shop small during American Express' fourth Small Business Saturday, which will this year be marked on November 27, sandwiched between Black Friday and Cyber Monday. As the organizers note, small businesses are "the heartbeat of our communities" and need to be supported.

A newly released survey by Constant Contact highlights just why the holidays are so important for retailers, including small businesses. More than half of the small business-to-customer businesses surveyed last month said new shoppers during the holiday season become repeat and loyal customers.

And loyal customers are an essential tool in retailers' arsenal. More than 80 percent of those surveyed said loyal customers are the number one way in which they grow their business. Online marketing tools were mentioned by 66 percent of respondents as the most important means to achieve growth.

But loyalty is not easy to achieve, especially at a time when customers are bombarded with messages. The majority of respondents--90 percent--said loyalty is attained by offering a great product or service, while 60 percent mentioned sustained communications through email newsletters. Just under 50 percent noted social media communications as a way to achieve customer loyalty.

While loyal customers are so important for small businesses, almost 30 percent said they had no advanced planning for the holidays. Only 31 percent said they started planning up to three months in advance. Planning is mostly taken up by increasing in-house marketing activities and online and in-store promotions.