Why Your Local Community Should Be Central To Small Businesses’ Marketing Strategy

Share this article

Share this article


Why Your Local Community Should Be Central To Small Businesses’ Marketing Strategy

Share this article

It goes without saying that last year was incredibly tough for many small businesses (SMBs). Even though Covid-19 vaccines are now being deployed worldwide, restrictions will remain in place for some time to come. As a result, 2021 is likely to remain exceptionally challenging for many SMBs.

Yet, even at a time of such uncertainty, SMBs can count on the support of their community — online or in person. A recent survey conducted by iStock showed that more than half of UK consumers (54%) believe it’s important to support small and local businesses who are struggling during the pandemic.

In fact, when making decisions on which firms to do business with, it is important to 74% of UK consumers that the company supports the local community in which they operate.

That’s according to iStock’s latest Visual GPS survey, conducted in partnership with YouGov, which examines the key factors driving purchasing decision making and the visuals to which consumers respond best.

This has also been reflected in the volume of searches for images around the concept of “community” on the iStock platform, globally.

Our search data and analysis of the top selling images reflect a year-on-year search increase for images illustrating “community support” (+100%), for images around “community help” (+175%) and for images of “community together” (+130%).

So, how can small businesses capitalise on this consumer support and what does this mean to engage with their communities during this challenging time? Based on the research of our Creative team, and the insights from our Visual GPS research platform, below are a few key marketing tips:

Caring for your community will drive loyalty

Almost a third (28%) of British consumers say they are more likely to trust small or local shops because they feel these businesses care more about them. Showing empathy in your marketing and demonstrating that you care about your employees, customers and the wider community will help you forge stronger connections with your audience.

In order to do this authentically, it’s important to have a deep understanding of your customers and the issues affecting their daily life.

For example, our recent research found that most people, across the world, encounter bias, with six in ten (62%) feeling they have been discriminated against. Of those who feel discriminated against, only 15% say they are well-represented in business communications.

In addition, our research highlights that two important visual preferences that drive UK consumers’ purchasing decisions are “seeing people that are like them and their lives” and “seeing the ways the company fits into people's lives”.

Understanding what might be driving their decision making, will enable you to create more engaging marketing content which is relatable and relevant to them.

Demonstrate convenience

In these challenging times, convenience is more important than ever for customers when it comes to deciding where they are going to shop. In fact, 86% of UK shoppers cited convenience as one of the main reasons they would purchase with large retailers.

It is therefore important to ensure your communications demonstrate how convenient it is to shop with you, whether it is in store or online.

For instance, by using clear and inviting visuals that demonstrates ease of process, such as different payment options and speedy returns policies. Vector illustration is a great way to communicate the convenience of services.

Consider the local community you are operating in as a diverse entity

Consumers today expect businesses, whether big or small, to fully commit to diversity and inclusion. According to our Visual GPS survey, nearly 80% of consumers, globally, stated that it isn’t enough for brands to represent diversity — they now expect advertising and communication to show people true lifestyles and cultures.

In practice, that means inclusivity should resonate in all brand visuals. For example, it is important to represent people from all backgrounds in a way that feels authentic and be mindful not to reduce them to a single identifying factor.

You should consider intersecting identify factors, such as race, gender, age, sexual orientation, religion, and socio-economic background. Getting inclusion right is key, as consumers are not afraid to call out businesses who fall short.

On the flip side, however, roughly a third of consumers started purchasing from a brand that supported a cause they believe in. This really shows that effective value-based marketing creates a lasting impact.

Be a positive force for your local community

When it comes to demonstrating care for the local community, there are many examples of SMBs who went above and beyond during the pandemic. From offering rooms for key workers looking to protect their family, to donations of food for families in need.

Over the past 12 months, SMBs from many different sectors have demonstrated their commitment to their community, such as business management consultant WeAgile which launched free online tutoring sessions to enable children to continue to learn during lockdown.

Another example is online tea retailer NEMI Teas, which partnered with charity Groundwork London to help refugees to find work.

Consumers are more conscious of brand purpose and values than ever before and are actively looking to support small businesses.

This poses a great opportunity for SMBs to emphasise they care for their customers and the wider community - and companies that manage to do this effectively will forge deeper relationships with existing, and new, customers.

Jacqueline Bourke is director, creative insights EMEA at iStock.

Related Articles
Get news to your inbox
Trending articles on Opinions

Why Your Local Community Should Be Central To Small Businesses’ Marketing Strategy

Share this article