Not too long ago, small mom and pop stores couldn’t compete with the big guys through traditional offline marketing. People went to the big name stores advertised in magazines, television commercials, billboards, and flyers. We thought big name brands meant quality, but online marketing has changed the rules and helped to level the playing field. It’s never been easier for smaller stores to compete with big ones.

According to a recent study by Ernst & Young, only 25% of customers are loyal in the US. They have attributed this low rate to the rise of the internet: by removing geographical barriers. It has strongly increased competition between brands, leaving them struggling to retain consumers. This is good news for smaller stores.

Consumers want a company they can trust. They want to be loyal. It’s the company’s job to convince the consumer they are worthy of their loyalty. How? Small businesses must take advantage of changes in today’s market brought on by the internet to create a positive online presence.

Make yourself easy to be found through the use of the internet. Have a website optimized for mobile devices, search engine and online marketing. Get real reviews from real people, not just a paid reviewer and post them on your website or Amazon. Do you have YouTube videos? They are a great venue for product demonstrations.

Take advantage of the power of social media and reputation management.  Do you have a presence on social media? Today, an unhappy customer is able to complain publicly and get results.  There really wasn’t a venue to be heard before social media became so popular. Here’s an example of the power of social medial. A friend had called the power company regularly for over a year to complain about a dead tree resting on a power line in their neighbor’s yard, with no results. The power company said it wasn’t their responsibility. The homeowners took a picture and posted it on Facebook and got a call the next day.  Yup, the next day with a scheduled appointment to remove the tree. Now that’s power of social media.

Reliability on brand name has changed.  Quality is found in the smaller mom and pop stores that have a vested interest in making consumers happy.  Consumers are realizing bigger is not necessarily better which is great news for smaller stores and businesses.

Listen to your customers and make sure their needs are met. The online marketing world has made it easier for one customer to make a bigger impact on a large brand. Never before has customer service meant as much as it does today. A positive experience in your store can be broadcast instantly. And so can a bad one.  If a customer has posted a negative experience, make sure to address it and fix it.

Brands are forced to be more transparent and to give back to society.  Consumers expect it and reward it. Even a small gesture can mean a lot.

Reward loyalty. Loyalty and reward programs are extremely popular and with good reason. Consumers like to feel acknowledged and rewarded. It creates a relationship. Include giveaways and contests.

The opportunity for brand recognition has exploded with the evolution of technology. Brands should work now to win customers and then work even harder to keep them loyal.