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Data Says Consumers Are Eager To Support Small Businesses, Here’s How To Prepare

Person picking up food at a local cafe while wearing a mask

Salesforce Research finds consumers want small businesses to succeed post-pandemic. Here's what they need to keep buying.

Here’s some good news for small business leaders navigating change: 56% of consumers — and 62% of millenials, the largest consumer segment — say they spend more at small businesses now than they did last year.

Every two weeks, Salesforce Research surveys the general population to learn how consumers and the workforce navigate the COVID-19 pandemic. Our latest survey focuses on small businesses. How are they faring in their communities? Are local consumers supporting them? And perhaps most critically to owners, what steps can businesses take to bring customers back?

The upshot is global consumers recognize the challenges small businesses face and want to help them. While almost half of survey respondents (48%) say most small businesses in their area are struggling, they’re also actively supporting those businesses. They plan to keep it up, too. Sixty-seven percent of consumers — and 72% of millennials — say they’re committed to supporting small businesses more than they did pre-pandemic. Consider this, spending is coming in the midst of an economic crisis in which consumer spending is down overall. The love for small businesses is real.

Fig. one: Consumer commitment to supporting small businesses during
the pandemic broken out by generation

What can small businesses do to embrace this support and stay afloat as we continue to navigate COVID-19? To some extent, the answer depends on their audience demographics. Let’s start with younger consumers, that large group of millennials and Gen Z who are particularly committed to supporting small businesses.

Invest in digital experiences

Leaning into digital commerce is key, particularly with younger shoppers. Sixty-three percent of millennial consumers — and 61% of Gen Z consumers — say they’re more likely to support small businesses with digital presences. Gen Z, in particular, say they’ve also engaged with social media content from, or written a positive online review for, a small business since the pandemic took hold.

Fig. two: Consumer sentiment broken out by generation on small business
digital and social media presences

Investing in digital experiences comes in many forms, and something relatively small and inexpensive can be effective. Take the example of Meggie Palmer, founder and CEO of PepTalkHer, which provides workplace gender-equality resources. Palmer recently launched an online series of curated #PowerPepTalks. When viewers register for a talk, their information flows through Salesforce Essentials, where it’s turned into qualified leads for easy retargeting and remarketing later on.

Implement health and safety policies

Older consumers, on the other hand, are more apt to support small businesses who’ve adapted their in-store experiences to meet COVID-era safety protocols. Baby boomers and Gen X say they shop in person at small businesses that have integrated contactless payments and social distancing measures.

Fig. three: Consumer perceptions on the value of shopping at a
small business, broken out by generation

Public safety mandates and regulations vary from state to state and county to county, but generally speaking, safety and flexibility are the name of the game. Here are a few tips to help you reopen your small business safely:

  • Create a safe experience for older consumers who like shopping in stores. For example, offer special shopping hours for them.
  • Offer curbside pickup and implement social distancing measures inside your store.
  • Implement leave and wellness policies to help ensure the physical and mental health of your employees.
  • Secure your supply chain of essential health and safety supplies.

Regardless of age or preferences when it comes to digital versus in-person shopping, consumers value safety. In a survey we conducted in May 2020, 55% of respondents said the top priority they want small businesses to focus on is making them feel safe. So mask up, wash those hands, and welcome your customers into your business with safety foremost in mind.

More ways to navigate changing times

Consumers love small businesses, and they’re eager to shop small. But now may be the time to think about expanding or reinventing parts of your business for the better. Visit our Tableau dashboard [best to view dashboard on desktop] to learn more about consumer perspectives regarding small business and to interact with the latest data.

Salesforce helps you find more customers, win their business, and keep them happy so you can succeed. Learn more about our small business CRM solutions by following us on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.

For more business and leadership inspiration, check out our entire Leading Through Change series.

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