Brexit sparks a ‘love for local’ shopping

By Jon Wilson, Managing Director, Groupon UK and IE

The fate of Britain’s high streets continues to be a hot topic as brands like Poundworld and Toys “R” Us go bust, and one in six high street firms are taken to court as business rates bites. At a first glance, the future doesn’t look rosy; particularly given independent predictions than it’s small to medium businesses who will be worst hit by the post-Brexit fall-out. But new research suggests that all is not lost, particularly for independent operators.

The study, which questioned 2,010 shoppers and 1,000 small business decision makers nationwide, found that the Brexit vote has re-ignited British shoppers love for local; but business owners are yet to capitalise on the potential boom of this loyalty. From the findings, it’s clear that there are simple steps every business owner could, and should, be taking to ensure they don’t miss out… 

Prepare to review and renew your business strategy – A third of shoppers say they’ve noticed lots of local businesses start to close since Brexit was announced. Clearly the result is already having a visible impact; but worryingly almost over half of corresponding independent business owners (59%) say they have no plans to adapt their strategy accordingly. Even small businesses must ensure they review and renew their plans to ensure they align with wider economic, political and consumer trends. What worked when you started the business won’t work forever. Being able to adapt is crucial.

Get to know your existing customers – Take the time to understand your customers better by finding out their needs and preferences. By speaking with them regularly and gaining feedback (from more traditional phone conversations and feedback surveys to emails and social media interactions) you can use this valuable insight to make sure you’re delivering what they want via their preferred channel. Frequently interacting with them will encourage repeat custom, enhance loyalty and ultimately, bring more people to the high street.

Consider how to attract new customers – The research suggests that consumers have a renewed love for the high street, but businesses are not planning for the increased swing to local that they could be championing, as over a third (43%) admit they’ve no strategy in place for attracting new customers. Raising brand awareness is vital to capturing new business. People can’t shop with you unless they know you exist. The work we do at Groupon is designed to do just that, helping independent businesses with small budgets to tap into a much wider audience than they could alone.

Offer value for money & reward customers for their loyalty – Over a third (41%) of shoppers say they would be more likely to shop local if a loyalty scheme was on offer, but that currently many local businesses don’t provide them (14%) or promotional discounts (18%).  Those retailers not offering either of these are missing an obvious opportunity to generate greater revenues. Promotions and loyalty schemes can be implemented quickly and cost-effectively. These days, any good coffee shop offers “buy x, get one free”, while hairdressers often have “refer a friend” discounts. There’s no reason why similar tactics can’t be tweaked and employed for all different kinds of sectors.

Explore digital channels – Four in ten independent local retailers still don’t have their own website and just three per cent have an app. In today’s predominantly digital world, this just isn’t acceptable. A fully functioning retail site might not be appropriate for all, but every business must have a basic digital presence. By this I mean something to ensure that potential customers proactively searching for what you offer can find you easily via online search. That could just be a listing on Google Maps, a one-page website with basic info and contact details. Or for businesses with a strong visual offering, like gift shops, an Instagram account showcasing the best of your items.

Integrate with the local community – 74% of shoppers say what they love most about independents is the way they make their community unique. Business owners should embrace this and actively get more involved with local life. Demonstrate your expertise by teaching at local events – depending on your business this can range from seminars and workshops to running master classes at fetes and markets around the high street. You can also host or sponsor events and invite customers to attend.