How SMEs can impact communities and build loyalty

By Mike Elliff, below, CEO, Tyl by NatWest

In an economically turbulent year for both businesses and consumers, SMEs have been a vital lifeline for cities, regions, and communities across the UK. Tyl by NatWest’s own research revealed that over 40% of Brits felt a greater appreciation for the shops and services available to them on their doorsteps following the pandemic and lockdown. The study also revealed that over a quarter of consumers have been inspired by the cost-of-living to support small businesses more frequently.

Despite being agents of change, consumers have traditionally failed to recognise how integral SMEs are as the backbone and heart of their local communities. But with this newfound appreciation from Brits to continue lending local businesses a helping hand, it’s up to SMEs to return the favour and keep consumers and their local communities front of mind too.

So, how can SMEs best make a meaningful impact in their communities and build loyalty while empowering customers to continue shopping locally?

Pay it forward to show you value your community

As a small business, your customers are your community, so when you invest in causes that matter to them, you know your business will benefit in the long run. Recent research by Pennies reveals that 73% of consumers still prefer to give ‘little and often’, despite tighter personal budgets and rising costs. It’s clear that shoppers are willing to spend generously with businesses they know are making a difference. Consumers want businesses to contribute to their communities and are willing to reward those that do with their business.

Your payments partner probably isn’t the first place you would think to look as a small business owner when it comes to implementing a pay it forward scheme. But in doing so, you can establish a giveback strategy that will create a positive impact on the community and also help your bottom line. Being a business owner means your local community is watching you and paying attention to what kind of difference you are making.

Tyl’s Giveback Community Fund enables merchants to seamlessly integrate giving back into their payment process. With every card payment a Tyl merchant takes, Tyl donates to charity and community projects, and has raised over £500,000 since launching in 2019. The fund has supported over 40 unique charities and causes including Hospice UK, Macmillan Cancer Support and The Prince’s Trust . Business can also give back to local causes they have a deep personal history or affinity with, turning every tap into more than just a transaction. The Giveback initiative doesn’t cost SMEs or their customers anything additional and allows customers to be fully involved in giving back without compromising the cost, efficiency, or the service they are given. Additionally, a frictionless process such as this allows business owners to focus on delivering an outstanding customer experience, safe in the knowledge that they are giving back to their communities in the background.

This kind of community engagement can be an easy and painless way of building brand awareness, loyalty, and credibility among locals. When existing and potential customers think of your business as socially conscious, there can be a tangible boost in foot traffic, and you can cement your reputation as a supportive changemaker within your communities. Lending a helping hand to local causes that resonate most with your customers shows them that you care while encouraging all-important repeat visits in the process.

Businesses that actively invest time in, and engage with, their social responsibilities could witness the upside not just for wider society, but for their profit margins too.

Facilitating acts of kindness

In recent years, headlines have painted pictures of doom and gloom, and we have seen large businesses respond with community-minded programmes to support the British public – think Asda’s ‘Winter Warmer’ initiative. But while SMEs may want to do more, they perhaps don’t feel equipped to drive and deliver meaningful change.

With access to data now made easy, SMEs are in a stronger position than ever to better analyse their business and operational performance, identifying downtime in which to open up their businesses to the local community. Business analytics tools such as the Tyl Portal can help SMEs by crunching the numbers, arming them with the insights on how to nurture their business.

Organising charity sales, volunteering, and giving annually to charity are all viable ways that small businesses can give back. And this in turn encourages customers to give back to their own community, too. But there are other ways businesses can have a positive impact on the local area. Whether it’s the local coffee shop offering a space for a book club or hairdressers giving people a place to have a coffee and sit in the warmth, SMEs can transform their business into a hub for the community during their quieter periods and downtime. This can help boost local positive sentiments around their business and further amplify the fidelity of their own customer base.

Capturing the interests of local shoppers and using your business for good can give SMEs a competitive edge by going the extra mile.

By taking the right steps, SMEs can reap the benefits and dividends from actively supporting and engaging with their local communities, fostering meaningful change as they boost their brand loyalty over the long-term.