Compared to their larger, more established counterparts, attracting customers can often be a difficult task for very small businesses. A new study from Paychex finds that best way microbusinesses – those with fewer than 10 employees – can earn the attention of consumers is to have an online presence.
Specifically, 36 percent of customers said a microbusiness without an online presence or website would make them less likely to utilize their services. [Building a website? Here are 10 tips for making it great.]
"From basic information like location and hours of operation to the company's mission statement, websites can be a crucial way to attract new business," the study's authors wrote.
However, not having a website isn't the only thing keeping some shoppers away. The research found that 33 percent of those surveyed are less likely to shop at a microbusiness if it doesn't have a phone number, with 32 percent preferring to give their business elsewhere if a company doesn't accept debit or credit cards.
"Fewer people today carry cash or checks, and brands unwilling to accept credit cards or digital wallet payments may end up losing business over this decision," the study's authors wrote.
Among the other top reasons today's consumers are less likely to shop at a microbusiness are:
- Doesn't keep standard hours of operation – 25 percent
- Only accepts PayPal – 17 percent
- Operates from home – 11 percent
- Doesn't sell goods or services made in the U.S. – 9 percent
- Doesn't give back to the community – 9 percent
- Doesn't have a social media presence – 6 percent
- Doesn't have an office or a storefront – 6 percent
The research found that having an online-only business was appealing to consumers.
"Microbusinesses that operated exclusively online were just over 5 percent more likely to earn customers as a result of their online presence," the study's authors wrote. "Millennials, especially, have been identified as a generation that appreciates the ability to conduct their business online."
Another key aspect to gaining customers for very small businesses is building trust. How long microbusiness owners have been in operation and their levels of education all play a role in how trustworthy they are viewed by consumers.
"Building trust with customers is important – and not always easy," the study's authors wrote. "It can help dictate to whom they give their business."
The study found that the more experience a microbusiness owner has, the more trustworthy they are seen by customers. Trust increased by 36 percent for microbusiness owners with more than 40 years of experience, compared to just 3 percent for those who started their business less than a year ago.
Similarly with experience, the more education a microbusiness owner has, the more likely they are to be trusted by customers. The study found that 24 percent of those surveyed were more likely to trust a microbusiness owner with a master's degree or higher, compared to less than 20 percent with an undergraduate degree, and just 5 percent for business owners with only a high school diploma.
The research shows that the more employees a microbusiness has, the more trustworthy they are viewed. Businesses where the owner was the sole employee earned the least amount of trust from those surveyed. Conversely, businesses with at least 10 employees earned the most trust.
"While microbusinesses tend to have small teams, businesses with more employees earned a higher level of trust from potential customers," the study's authors wrote.
Gender and age also impact consumer trust. The study discovered that Gen X women and baby boomer men were viewed as the most trustworthy. Gen X men were seen as the least trustworthy to those surveyed.
The study was based on surveys of 1,000 potential customers.