These days, research shows that consumers would rather spend money on experiences than on stuff. Shoppers may not need a new picture frame, but they may want to learn to make one on their own. Similarly, they may have a fridge full of food and drinks, but they might prefer to leave that at home and head to the local restaurant or brewery hosting trivia night with their friends. As activity continues to drive consumers’ purchasing behavior, small businesses have an opportunity to create a local experience for customers.
The trend toward experience-driven spending is particularly fierce among millennials. Last year, CNBC reported that 72 percent of millennials prefer to spend more money on experiences than on material things. They’re booking travel, going to music festivals and ordering meal prep subscription boxes. With millennials now representing the largest consumer group in the country, their spending behavior can’t be ignored.
That doesn’t mean retailers – particularly locally owned shops – have to suffer. When it comes to creating experiences for customers, local businesses have an edge: They know the community and what it’s made of. The key to turning an average shop into a customer experience is to understand where local fun comes from.
Keep the Community Active
Build relationships beyond the storefront and in the great outdoors. If you own a sporting goods store, invite your customers to a weekend soccer tournament. If your shop or restaurant is located near a walking or biking trail, organize a weekly outing along the trail and conclude the evening right outside your business location.
Teach Customers a New Skill
Put your expertise to good use. Hosting a class or workshop gives customers a new way to experience your business. They’ll leave with a new skill – such as baking, crafting or woodworking – and with a story they can tell their friends.
You don’t have to set the scene all by yourself. Work with your neighboring local businesses or a Main Street association in your community to organize a robust customer experience. For instance, nearby retailers can create a loyalty program that rewards customers for trying several different businesses in the same area. Local restaurants can turn happy hour into a music experience by inviting local bands to play in a mini-music festival.
Go Where the Experiences Are
Why not bring your business to an already-established experience? Participate in local farmers markets, craft shows and street fairs – these types of events already draw crowds of consumers for a weekend outing with family or friends. While they’re experiencing the community, make sure they experience your business along the way.
Whatever experience you decide to create, be sure to leverage the local community. As much as millennials enjoy experiences, they also love small businesses. Give them an experience they can’t get from online retailers and national chains.