True Local’s 2016 predictions for small businesses

True Local’s General Manager, Rob Tolliday, recently caught up with Kochie’s Business Builders to share insights into what lies ahead for small businesses this year. Sky News picked up on Rob’s predictions and called him into the studio for an on-air chat.

Based on research conducted by Sensis and their expertise in small business and consumers, here’s what he had to share:

Technology will continue to break barriers and increase competition for small businesses in 2016 and as a result customer experience will be a major focus. With the digital landscape evolving there will be more ways for small businesses to build and retain customers – so how should your small businesses respond? Here are my top five predictions on how small businesses can take advantage of these changes.

1. Two-way dialogue with customers will be essential in 2016

In 2016, great customer service will be one of the most powerful ways a business can set itself apart from its competitors. When it comes to exceptional customer service, the lead up and follow up is just as important as the purchase.

With usage of review sites increasing, there is a real opportunity for you to listen and learn from your customer’s reviews. Engage in a two-way dialogue with your customers via review websites as it can build trust and generate positive word of mouth.

2. Small businesses will tap into omni-channel marketing

A customer has multiple interactions with a business when they’re deciding on a service or a product. In 2016 customers will expect every aspect of this journey to be seamless, which is why omni-channel marketing is crucial.

As a small business it’s important you use creative ways to market yourself. Even though you don’t have the resources of a large enterprise, it doesn’t mean you can’t be sophisticated in your approach.

Using online directories will add to your omni-channel approach, offering you a ready- made platform to engage with customers.

3. Shop local trend on the rise in Australia

Our research shows Australian consumers want to support their local businesses, with 96 per cent saying that a thriving and inclusive community needs successful local businesses.

A local touch is an advantage – so be authentic, engage with your local community and show your business to be a true community partner. Provide your customers with an online hub like True Local, a place where they can engage with your business, as this is something large companies cannot always do to the same effect.

4. Focus to shift from lead generation to conversion and customer retention

Fostering relationships with existing customers should be a focus for small businesses in 2016. Look for new ways to engage with existing customers – e.g. loyalty programs and promotions targeted at local customers.

Remember to always ask for feedback and encourage customers to leave a review on websites like True Local; this will help in knowing what will keep customers coming back.

5. Small business will realise negative reviews can have a positive effect

As a small business, your reputation among locals has a direct impact on your success. There’s no doubt having positive reviews is great, but the research shows two-thirds of Australians actually doubt the credibility of a business that only has positive reviews.

If your business receives a negative review, I recommend addressing it straight away. By responding to the negative review online you can demonstrate your commitment to providing exceptional customer service.

For small business insights you can download the latest Sensis business Index report

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