New research from the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) shows that shopping at local independent businesses has a much bigger impact in communities across the country than shopping at big multinationals.
‘Shop local’ isn’t just a catchy phrase, it’s a movement that’s all about customers choosing to support local businesses, so communities thrive.
The research, conducted in partnership with Scotiabank, found that for every dollar Canadians spend at a small business, 66 cents stays local. Compare that to the 11 cents that stays local when Canadians shop at a multinational.
The difference is staggering: six times more money is recirculated in the local economy to fuel growth and strengthen communities.
Encouraging your customers to shop local makes sense and makes cents. Here are 5 savvy ways to promote your business and encourage your customers to keep their loonies local.
1. Show customers the value of shopping local
According to CFIB’s report, Small Business, Big Impact: Small Retailers' Local Contributions', 95% of business owners said they wish customers were more aware their dollars have a bigger impact in their community when they shop at a local independent business.
To spread the word about the value of shopping local, check out CFIB’s #SmallBusinessEveryDay campaign. Download the free digital toolkit which includes a printable poster and customizable digital images. Put up the poster in your business and use the images on your social media to show customers how their loonies go further when they stay close to home.
Keeping two-thirds of every dollar in the local economy isn’t the only reason to buy local. Consider this: the top three factors for consumers when deciding where to shop, according to CFIB’s Local Contributions report, are price, product quality and seeing the product before buying. Small businesses pride themselves on supplying many of the factors that people value, such as stocking high quality products and allowing customers to try or learn about a product before buying.
Invite your customers to come and test the variety of products you sell by hosting open houses and demonstrations. You can share your extensive knowledge and expertise, while providing real-time answers and a high level of service for your customers.
2. Build and boost your online presence
You’re missing out if you’re not active online, including on social media, and taking advantage of digital platforms to promote your business. Start with these few steps:
- Develop an easy-to-navigate business website with clear product descriptions, quality images, and a straightforward checkout process.
- Register with local business directories and keep your hours of operation and contact information updated on your website and social media.
- Interact with your customers online by thanking them for a positive review or replying to their comments. Add a review link customer can access easily and quickly. A quarter of Canadians report that reviews are one of the top factors when they’re considering where to shop, so encourage your customers to let people know about their experience!
Here are a few additional social media best practices for your business:
- Know Your Audience: Understand who your target customers are and tailor your content to resonate with them. Speak their language!
- Consistent Posting: Stay active on social media with regular posts. It keeps your audience engaged and interested in what you have to offer. To stay fresh and on target you can build a calendar to help you manage when you post and what you post about. Try to include variety in your posts so it is not only about your business. i.e., share articles, news, or celebrate national days related to your business.
- Engage Authentically: Respond to comments, messages, and reviews in a genuine and friendly manner. It's like having a virtual conversation with your customers.
- Visual Appeal: Use high-quality images and graphics that showcase your products or services in the best light. A picture is worth a thousand words, after all.
- Hashtags: Incorporate relevant hashtags in your posts to increase your discoverability. Try local tags, like #TorontoLife, or #ShopLocal, #SmallBusinessEveryDay and #KeepYourLoonieLocal
- Promotions and Contests: Spice things up with occasional promotions, giveaways, or contests. It's a fun way to keep your audience excited and engaged.
- Tell Your Story: Share behind-the-scenes moments, customer testimonials, and the journey of your business. People love connecting with the human side of businesses.
If you’re not sure where to start, there are many tools and programs that can help you grow your business online, including the federal Canada Digital Adoption Program (CDAP), which connects you with tech experts to help you get a website up and running.
3. Team up with local organizations to support your community
Many associations, such as CFIB and local Business Improvement Areas (BIA), operate ‘buy local’ events like Small Business Saturday®, sidewalk sales or Midnight Madness events to encourage consumers to support local businesses just like yours.
You can also participate in, sponsor or partner with local festivals, farmers markets, craft fairs, and community events that showcase local businesses.
Businesses can have a direct positive impact on their communities by getting involved in any number of local initiatives. If you haven’t already done so, explore how you can give back to your neighborhood. Options include sponsoring local sports teams, volunteering, donating to local charities, organizing fundraisers, providing professional opportunities for young people, or providing a host space for community events. Giving back doesn’t just feel great; it raises your business’s profile and lets customers know you’re actively supporting the community and causes they care about. `
Teaming up with these types of associations, organizations and/or other local businesses further establishes your business’s strong ties to the community and sets you apart from big businesses and online giants.
4. Celebrate other small businesses
Small businesses win when they support each other.
- Partner with other businesses in your community by hosting collaborative events or recommending each other’s products and services to your customers.
- Sourcing goods and services locally for your business is sustainable, helps reduce environmental impact, and is a major driver for keeping two thirds of every dollar local.
- Connect with other local businesses for shoutouts and cross-promotion on social media. It's a great way to expand your reach and build a supportive network.
You’ll get a leading advantage when you partner with other small local businesses in the community to share resources and learn from each other, and it benefits your customers too.
5. Enhance customer incentives and experience
Small businesses are known for providing that personal touch: they remember your name, how you take your coffee, and remind you when it’s time to get your tires checked! One of the biggest advantages of shopping small is the relationships businesses develop with their customers over time. As a business owner, you can boost those relationships and build loyalty:
- Provide incentives to encourage consumers to make purchases in-store, such as exclusive discounts, referral programs, and loyalty programs with special rewards for repeat customers.
- Continue to provide the outstanding customer service that is unique to small businesses (e.g., personalized notes in online orders, honest product recommendations, flexible exchange policies, or same-day order pick-up).
Whatever business you’re in, you're not just a business owner; you're a vital thread in the vibrant tapestry of Canadian small businesses that make our communities truly special. Encourage your community and customers to keep those loonies local and watch your business flourish!
*Ready to dive deeper into the report? Visit CFIB for an enlightening read and take your local journey to the next level.
#SmallBusinessEveryDay launched in 2020 to encourage Canadians to support small businesses from coast to coast, every day, in any way they can. It is presented by CFIB in partnership with Scotiabank, Interac Corp., and Chase Payment Solutions. Visit smallbusinesseveryday.ca
This article is brought to you by CFIB’s Business Resources team. Scotiabank customers that are CFIB members get exclusive banking discounts and access to a dedicated Small Business Advisor who can help map out strategies to improve your cash flow, reduce your expenses, and grow your business. Learn more.
Before you take action on any of the information above, we recommend consulting with a qualified business advisor that understands your unique needs and situation for your specific business and/or personal plans.