Small businesses in Philadelphia have taken a beating in recent years, mostly due to the recession, and because it’s hard to offer competitive pricing with big box stores. In Northern Liberties and Center City, many shops are vacant once the holiday rush is over and the New Year rolls around.
How can small businesses make an impression on customers to retain them all year long? From the novice shop owner to the old-time corner store, here are some of the top tips to transform holiday season-shoppers into year-round customers.
Connections build loyalty
Swag, an arts and gift shop in Northern Liberties, opened its doors to customers in early December, but already the shop is building up clientele. Twenty nine-year-old owner Maey Shou says that social media has played a role in that success.
“We have a Facebook Fan page that I update three to four times a week,” says Shou. “Every time we get [merchandise from] a new artist, I update the page.” She also stays connected to her customers via her store’s blog, which Shou contributes to about three times a month.
Retaining customers means making a connection, says Shou, which is why she starts by greeting every customer who enters, regardless if they are browsing or buying. Shou encourages members of the community to come in for a chat, and see what the store has to offer.
Getting to know her customers has helped her immensely, she says. “Find out what they’re looking for, and answer any questions they may have.”
Getting out and about has also helped Shou boost her marketing and promotion efforts. She attends community-oriented events in the winter months to promote and foster a relationship with other clientele. “It’s important to cultivate that relationship.”
Perks create passionate customers
Unlike other small businesses in the Center City area, The Children’s Boutique aims to attract potential customers with various extras. According to Patti Berman, shop owner, the small business offers special activities for children such as arts and crafts, music, cooking and yoga. For a small fee, parents can shop in peace knowing their children will be entertained. “We aim to be more than just a retail store,” says Berman.
It’s all in the details, she adds, something Berman feels keeps customers coming back year after year -- even beyond the holidays. “We wrap gifts for no charge, always. Customers love that.”
At The Children’s Boutique, the store will special-order any item through the website or at the store. “We’re very accommodating,” says Berman. That also means calling customers when new items of interest come in if she feels may interest them based on past shopping preferences.
Most small business owner will agree: For a healthy start in 2011, make it a priority to distinguish your business by offering quality customer service for new and returning customers. When you make paying close attention to your customers’ needs part of your business initiative, your customers will cultivate a level of respect for your company and its products and services -- and keep coming back for more.
Image credit: Cherry Patter