3 Ways Big Brands Can Adopt a Small-Business Mind-Set

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In the age of Amazon, the “big-business mind-set” is fueling the retail industry, making it more tempting than ever for retailers to hand their e-commerce strategy over to the internet giant to streamline purchases, consolidate platforms, and get their name out in the open.

Strangely enough, even as more and more businesses succumb to the ease of operating at a larger scale, smaller businesses that are straying away from the trend are continuing to see success, with the National Federation of Independent Businesses estimating that more than one in five small businesses are expecting even higher sales in 2018.

In today’s retail market, being a big name won’t necessarily guarantee survival—in fact, only 60 of the original 1955 Fortune 500 companies exist today. Due to their manageable size and proximity to consumers, small businesses can quickly innovate within their business strategy—allowing them to directly engage and interact with their customers and employees. For big businesses looking to revamp, consider making changes from the outside in by adopting a small business mind-set to fuel lasting engagements and build loyal customers. Here are three ways to get started:

1. Take in customer feedback and make innovation a top priority.

Jump-starting an idea in a big company is about as easy as getting a lunch meeting with said company’s CEO—nearly impossible. Meanwhile, small businesses can easily take in feedback and ideas from customers and start implementing them in the same day. Big businesses need to remain as agile as the mom-and-pop shop down the street—taking in customer feedback and acting on it, fast.

To accomplish this, big brands can leverage surveys and social media to gauge consumer opinions on certain aspects of the business, such as branding, customer experience, and promotions. Using the insights gained from their loyal customers, businesses can make sure they’re updating processes and initiatives to best align with customer needs. Implementing consumers’ ideas helps them to feel heard by the companies they love. If customers are able to feel like they’re taking a part in a company's innovation process, they’re more likely to trust their products—eventually increasing overall brand perception and visits.

2. Leverage communications tools that drive engagement.

To achieve customer loyalty that turns browsers into brand advocates, big businesses need to adopt the small-business mind-set of curating and maintaining unique customer relationships. It’s hard for big businesses to foster that individualized, in-person line of communication, but there are available tools that make the tedious task as easy as sending a text.

This is where messaging apps come in. Growing in popularity at an unprecedented rate, messaging apps are expected to reach 3.6 billion users this year, which is more than half of the world’s population. And with 53 percent of Gen Zers reporting that they use their smartphones to make online purchases, messaging apps pose the perfect answer to big businesses’ e-commerce woes. For larger companies, messaging apps offer the unique opportunity to instantly communicate with customers, build trust, and create lifelong loyalty. Chatting with customers where they are already spending a large chunk of time is key, and by opening a dialogue on one streamlined platform, brands can simplify interactions and create a go-to space for them to connect with the brand. Leveraging messaging apps will bridge the gap between big brands and their customers worldwide, curating the coveted direct customer-to-retailer relationship that small businesses have so well established.

3. Ensure that your mission is aligned and carried out.

In a big business filled with wildly different specialties and mind-sets, it’s quite easy to lose track of a company’s overarching goal. Is it to design something new and exciting? Promote a lifestyle? Solve a complex problem? Consumers are drawn to brands that have a clear and consistent mission, and businesses need to ensure that their mantra reflects their day-to-day operations and interactions.

To retain invested customers, businesses need to ensure their overarching goal is known across all fronts. Companies should prioritize showcasing their successes (outside of financial success) to customers. It’s important to make sure that customers know how their individual role helps a big business to ultimately succeed, so be sure to regularly give customers a “thank you” via messaging apps or social media, or in the form of rewards. When their contributions to the business’s overall success are communicated to them, loyal shoppers will feel inclined to live out their favorite brands’ goals.

Big businesses may have the name, but small businesses are ultimately winning the communication game. In the end, a successful company, big or small, will be innovative and customer-oriented at its core. If your big-business communication strategy is turning into a monotonous rut, take a page from the small-business book by fostering consumer innovation, leveraging communication tools that drive engagement, and making sure your company’s goals are known and lived by.

Debbi Dougherty is the head of B2B marketing at Rakuten Viber, a global messaging app with more than 1 billion active users. With more than 15 years of marketing experience, Debbi has held key marketing positions in ad tech and publishing and holds a leadership role at Women in Wireless, an organization devoted to supporting women in mobile.  

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