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UK Millennials try to support small businesses in the pandemic  

millennials support small business during pandemiciStock, a leading global source of visual content, today released new data on UK consumer shopping habits, that shows how Brits have changed their purchasing behaviour to support local since the onset of the pandemic.  

The research found that almost half of Millennials questioned (49%) believe supporting small and local businesses that are struggling during the pandemic was important. Among those, 42% have actively changed their shopping habits as a result.

In comparison, even though more Baby Boomers (58%) agreed that it was important to support local businesses that are currently struggling, less than a third (30%) have actively changed their behaviour.

While the desire to support local businesses during the pandemic is shared across all age groups, this research demonstrates that UK Millennials are among small businesses’ biggest allies. Millennials are matching their intentions with purchases, to make a positive contribution to the local economy at a time when independent retailers need customer loyalty more than ever before.

Jacqueline Bourke, Head of Creative Insights EMEA for iStock, commented: “These research results further indicate the ground-breaking impact the Covid-19 crisis has had on shopping behaviours. As small businesses navigate lockdown and the impact of Brexit in 2021, it is important they rethink their marketing strategy to capitalise on Millennials’ willingness to support the local economy. Millennials’ values and expectations in terms of convenience should therefore be reflected in small businesses’ branding. Similarly, small businesses should be thinking about how they can convert Baby Boomers’ goodwill into action, encouraging them to become loyal shoppers.

The research on the UK’s attitude towards small and local businesses was conducted by iStock in partnership with YouGov for the creative insights platform Visual GPS. It aims to better understand how shopping behaviours evolved in the UK since March 2020 and offer guidance to small businesses struggling to retain customer loyalty during a difficult period while coping with the impact of lockdown restrictions. It surveyed 2,062 consumers across the UK in November 2020, at a time when renewed national restrictions were coming into effect.

Key findings on Millennial shopping habits

  • Among Millennials who said they prefer to shop at small and local businesses, supporting the local economy (77%), a more personalised customer service (29%), and the unique range of products that can’t be found elsewhere (22%) were the top three reasons given
  • According to the research, Millennials would spend more with small businesses if they offered more competitive prices (35%), more convenient delivery options (30%) and more payment options (24%). Baby Boomers on the other hand care less about delivery and payment options but more about competitive pricing (41%) or a broader product range (29%).
  • Across all generations, UK consumers are around three times more likely to trust small and local shops rather than large retailers, the main reason cited that small businesses care more about their customers than large retailers.

Effective marketing strategies for small businesses

Based on the data, the iStock team has drawn some insights to help small businesses adapt their marketing content to successfully target different age groups and convert goodwill into shopping behaviour. With the added pressures faced by retailers because of the pandemic and Brexit, small businesses should capitalise on Millennials’ backing in these challenging times, especially as this generation is now into its prime spending years.

  • The importance of convenience: The research shows that delivery and payment options are key factors for Millennials when shopping with small businesses. Independent retailers should ensure that their communications demonstrate how convenient it is to shop with them. For instance, by visually promoting the services they offer, from speedy, simple delivery and return options to a variety of payment options.
  • Smart targeting: Social media remains the most popular outlet among Millennials. Video and image adverts published on social media have an impact on almost half of this age cohort with 40% of respondents stating that video adverts influence their decision making when considering which brands to purchase from, and 44% said the same for picture ads on social media. Small brands should ensure these channels are activated and populated with relevant visual content, including the use of short video format, to successfully target the younger generation.
  • The right values: Small businesses should ensure their marketing content aligns with the values of their audiences. This is especially important to Millennials as 33% of respondents from this age group mentioned this as crucial. Furthermore, 36% of them mentioned that diversity and equality are particularly important to them. Examples of content promoting diversity can be found at https://www.istockphoto.com/diversity.
  • The right content: In these challenging times, 26% of Baby Boomers and 36% of Millennials  indicated that they would like to see more humorous content from brands. Sustainability is also a topic relevant for 25% of Baby Boomers and for 38% of Millennials. Small businesses who source locally, or are particularly eco-friendly, should ensure to promote this in their branding.