4 Ways Small Businesses Can Better Meet Customer Expectations

With consumers more demanding than ever, make sure your business takes steps to appease them - or you'll open the door to competitors

4 Ways Small Businesses Can Better Meet Customer Expectations

Every business has its own unique challenges; a food cart entrepreneur has to find the perfect location and a fashion boutique owner needs to stay on top of trends to stock up on the latest must-haves. Yet there’s one challenge that all enterprises have in common: to fulfil their customers’ needs. There are many ways a company can do this, but it often comes down to one key imperative – making sure that consumers have choices throughout the entire shopping process, from selecting an item and paying for their purchase, right through to returning it if they choose to.

Through more than 50 years of experience working with small businesses, we have identified four ways to help small businesses fulfil the demands of their customers. By following our tips, there is an opportunity to improve relationships with consumers while also providing them more choice each time they engage with your brand.

1. Offering multiple ways to pay in-store

The popularity of cash is continuing to decline in favour of Chip and PIN, contactless and mobile payments. In fact, Barclaycard research found that 70% of shoppers prefer to pay by card or contactless instead of with cash, with spending on ‘touch and go’ payments leaping 166% in 2016 and one in two Brits using contactless to pay at least once a month.

The impact of not accepting card payments on small businesses is drastic; they are losing almost £8.8bn per year as a result – and one in five has even seen a customer walk away because they couldn’t pay by card.  Shoppers today expect to be able to pay their way, so to keep your customers happy and your business flourishing, it’s crucial to cater for a range of options at the point of sale.

2. Giving customers choice – in store and online

The modern consumer is more connected than ever before, and wants a variety of options for shopping and paying – whether that’s online, in-store or through an app. By offering multiple ways to browse and buy, you can keep up with evolving consumer preferences and ensure your customers return time and again – instead of going to competitors.

Introducing new delivery services such as click and collect – which 42% of customers say is a factor when deciding whether they purchase with one retailer over another – will improve the customer experience and help them associate your brand with ease and speed. Alternatively, you might want to consider creating a mobile-friendly website to enable customers to shop at their convenience – whether that’s on their commute, at their desk, or in bed – without the frustration of navigating a desktop site on a small screen

3. Expanding your refund and return policies

There is a growing expectation from consumers that it should be easy to return goods – particularly those bought online – regardless of the reason. Barclaycard research has found that three in ten shoppers (30%) deliberately over-purchase and subsequently return unwanted items, with one in five (19%) admitting to ordering multiple versions of the same product to make up their mind at home. As a result, some businesses have limited the options available for sending back goods to manage the overwhelming rate of returns.

Read here how you can meet consumer need for speed both in-store and online.

However, customer expectations for flexible returns options are not going away. More than half (58%) of UK shoppers say a retailer’s return policy impacts their purchasing decision when buying goods online, so small businesses need to find a way to balance meeting consumer demand and protecting their bottom line.

By listening to customers’ specific requests, businesses can identify what they consider most important – such as being able to return items for free (chosen by 73% of shoppers) or having a long returns windows (52%) – to ensure their policy responds as closely as possible. This will enable shoppers to purchase with confidence and ultimately increase their satisfaction.

4. Reinforcing cybersecurity defences

Cyber-attacks may seem like a distant threat, but businesses of all sizes need to be prepared. Customers may worry about the security of their data when purchasing items online and want to be assured that their personal details or sensitive information – such as their credit card details – will be safe.

To mitigate this threat, small businesses should make sure they have the appropriate measures in place to prevent cybercrime. This will help customers feel confident about sharing their data, and increase trust in your brand. It’s vital that small firms cover the basics, such as installing a firewall, securing web and mobile sites and educating staff about password protection and phishing attacks.

In today’s fast-paced world, keeping up with ever-changing customer expectations can be challenging, but these demands cannot be ignored if a business is to succeed. By listening to consumers and keeping up with the latest industry developments, you can ensure your business has the potential to attract new customers and retain loyal ones.

Greg Liset is head of small business at Barclaycard

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