Ever since the Industrial Revolution, perhaps even more so during the current digital and technological advancement, the “gap” between the producer and consumer has greatly widened. The once prevalent communal relationship of the local store owner and neighborhood buyer is no longer the same- we never know who made our pillows, backpacks, and even our milk, all of which we bought at large retail stores as Walmart. Furthermore, as we purchase various items via online distributors as Amazon, even the “hello, how-are-you” interactions have disappeared.
Recent consumer behavior research has shown, however, that there is great value in connecting with the customer at the most personable level. For instance, Starbucks has successfully built their coffee empire in the last decade by requiring their employees to ask for the customer’s name, and write it on the cup. Apple stores allow its clerks to roam freely on the floor, with their phones to function as cashiers, to meet and greet customers individually. All of these efforts are closely related to building a strong and genuine brand by investing in a sustainable relationship with the customers.
Why does this matter? Because small business owners have more flexibility in managing their businesses both comprehensibly and in detail, they can make faster and more accurate decisions to create a personalized and authentic experience for their customers. Rather than competing on price or cost-reducing strategies against the “big firms”, CEOs of small businesses should spend more time thinking about ways to intimately connect their brand with their local and online consumers- open houses, free tours for children, and sponsoring local events and teams could be some viable options. After all, customers want to be treated as people, not as sales numbers.