Adapting to the ever-changing demands of consumers

Local businesses have never been more technologically savvy than they are today. In the wake of the pandemic-driven digital transformation wave, consumers expect flawless, fast and convenient customer experiences.

Their tolerance when those expectations are not met is low. Research from Podium found that 86 percent of Aussies expect businesses to be even more hand-crafted in the wake of the pandemic.

It is no longer tenable for local businesses to do the bare minimum to get customers through the door. In competitive markets, it is difficult to compete on price and product, so an exceptional communication strategy that acquires, retains and retains customers is perhaps the greatest competitive advantage for local businesses. Here’s how building speed and convenience into every stage of your customer journey can drive loyalty and give your business the boost it deserves.

Acquire them while exploring

Acquisition begins in the “discovery” phase of the customer journey, which is critical to the rest of their experience. If they can’t find you online, you don’t exist. And if they can, but their experience with you is disappointing, you’re probably losing them to a competitor.

Today, consumers use Google to find local businesses by searching for “urgent mechanic near me” or “dental clinic Bondi”. If your business isn’t in the top three to five searches, you’re missing out on 75% of clicks. So focus on SEO (search engine optimization) and make it as easy as possible for them to find you and then communicate with you.

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As the demand for speed and convenience grows, you must meet the customer on their terms – online and in Google search results. When you take advantage of Google, you increase your potential findability and at the same time the convenience of your customers. You stand out if you are easy and easy to find and communicate with. If discovery is the first stage, engagement and retention are where your communication takes on extra meaning.

Engage them with excellent communication

Regardless of your industry, product or service, your ability to communicate and engage with customers is critical to increasing customer loyalty and improving sales. But engaging – and keeping – customers can be a challenge. Fully engaged customers represent a 23% higher share in profitability, revenue and relationship growth. And more than half (54%) want companies to fundamentally change the way they approach customers.

It starts with the right channels. Today we live and work on our smartphones, but email communication has lost its impact and phone calls are invasive and inconvenient for many. Texting was already the preferred method of communication for 9 in 10 consumers, and 42% of Aussies are more interested in texting local businesses than they were before the pandemic.

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Texting is captivating because it feels personal and reflects the way your customers interact with their friends and family on a daily basis. Meanwhile, web chat features engage your audience as soon as they visit your website, so you can help them find exactly what they’re looking for before they lose their temper and start looking for a competitor.

When you combine the right message with the right channel, your strategy really stands out. For example, consumers are eager to support the local population and will prioritize those who are active in the community and support charities. So to engage with them on a more meaningful level than a purely transactional level, communicate your story, mission and what sets you apart. And as cost of living pressures mount and consumer spending becomes more cautious, communicate any deals, offers, and incentives to keep them engaged.

Stimulate loyalty through retention

Keeping an existing customer is up to seven times cheaper than acquiring a new customer, so your job doesn’t stop at the point of sale. If you can collect customer data – for example through a sale, QR code or newsletter signup – you can add them to mailing lists and target them with SMS campaigns.

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If you’re a dentist, send them automatic text messages when their next check-in is due, or if you’re in the hair and beauty business, send them an offer or discount a certain period of time after their previous appointment. Staying top of mind on the right channels can be worth gold.

Retention can also lead to acquisition, so use your loyal customers as ambassadors to reach new customers. The vast majority (84%) of Aussies are influenced by online reviews, and one in four read reviews while outside before deciding whether to enter a business. If you can encourage retained customers to quickly and easily post reviews online, your local business will be better able to acquire new customers.

You don’t have to reinvent the wheel to provide exceptional customer communication. The best customer engagement starts and ends with understanding what your customers want—speed and convenience—then delivering it at every opportunity, from recruiting to engagement and retention.

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