Small business owners often stay awake at night worrying about cash flow and growing revenue. But whether you run the local bakery, flower shop, or dentist office, one of the most important decisions you can make, to encourage repeat business and profitability, is to offer customers a convenient way to pay, and a chance to connect with you online.

These were some of the findings from the RBC 2017 Small Business poll, which revealed that Canadians are quite passionate about their small and local businesses. The majority, 88 percent, say they would choose to support them when possible. In fact, as many as 57 percent of Canadians would pay more for a product or service offered by a local business. However, they are also demanding something in return for this premium: more payment choices, and the opportunity to engage online or through social media.

“Given the choice, it’s clear that Canadians do want to support their small and local businesses,” says Jason Storsley, Vice President, Small Business at RBC. “By simply meeting the consumers’ needs for convenient payment options and online engagement, owners and operators can cultivate a loyal customer base that helps drive revenue.”

Plastic is king

Like it or not, people are doing away with cash and are showing a strong preference for other convenient payment methods. While cash is still popular for anything less than $25, the majority of Canadians prefer to pay by credit or debit, regardless of the purchase amount.

In fact, almost 70 percent of Canadian consumers would spend more at a small or local business if it accepted more than just cash as a payment option, and 77 percent of Canadians wish that more small businesses offered tap to pay. With phones now ubiquitous, nearly half (47 percent) wish they had greater access to mobile payment options, such as Apple Pay or Android Pay.

“In today’s digitally connected world, there are many tools and resources available to small business owners that can get them online and engaged with their customers,” says Storsley. “Taking advantage of these tools, from sales to online marketing, to payments and social media connections. They will allow businesses to profit and grow.”

Online is no longer an “option”

And if you’re thinking that you don’t need a website, or are too busy to get involved with social media, think again. You’re missing out on opportunities to increase sales, not to mention the “word of mouth” support and brand awareness that comes from your customers through social channels. The poll shows that a full 70 percent of Canadians would be more likely to purchase from a business if it had an online presence, while almost half (45 percent) engage with businesses through social media. Given the chance, 61 percent would support a local business through social media.

These numbers are even higher when it comes to millennials. Three out of four would support a local business by helping to promote them on social media. In fact, 66 percent of millennials engage with small businesses through social media — more than 20 percentage points higher than any other age group. Not surprisingly, millennials are also demanding emerging payment options: 80 percent wish more businesses that they frequent had tap to pay, and 60 percent wish more of them had mobile payment options.

There’s no doubt that small businesses are the driver of our local Canadian economies. To position yourself for success and profitability in today’s (and tomorrow’s) digital society, make sure you consider how you can take advantage of these opportunities for your business.