New Study Highlights the Importance of a Strong Online Presence for Local Brands

For small businesses, franchisees and multi-location brands alike, it’s becoming more important than ever to maintain a robust online presence, according to findings from a recent study.

To celebrate Small Business Week, Netsertive surveyed more than 500 U.S. consumers to learn more about how they shop and search for local businesses, products and services. The study uncovered a few interesting (albeit not very surprising) findings.

No. 1: Consumers rely heavily on internet research for large purchases

Almost 80 percent of respondents said they conduct online research prior to making large in-store purchases, which is not that surprising. The Netsertive study looked at consumers who conduct online research for large investments, but this trend holds true for all purchases based on data from previous studies. The 2017 Retail Dive Consumer Survey found that:

Two-thirds of surveyed consumers said they research products online — at least occasionally — before shopping for them in a store. And nearly half take the research online/buy offline path frequently, if not always. Generally speaking, it’s younger shoppers (25-34 years) and especially younger men who are more likely to behave this way.

It’s worth noting, the Netsertive survey was conducted across a wide range of age groups from Gen Z (born after 1998) to the Silent Generation (Born 1928-1945), so it’s not just younger generations who rely on the internet to shop.

No. 2: Two-thirds of consumers turn to Google when researching local businesses

I’m a little skeptical of this number, not because I think it’s inflated, but because I think it’s low. Pretty much all the other answers are sites that are easier to access via Google than going straight to the source – unless you have the local business’ site bookmarked.

When researching a local business online, which channels do you use most?

The channels consumers use most when researching a business online

Related – 3 New Google My Business Features for Local Brands

No. 3: Consumers turn to their phones to find local business information

This one also comes as no surprise – more than three-fourths of users said they were at least somewhat likely to research local stores on their mobile phones. This number is indicative of a trend that has been happening for a while as consumers are using their mobile devices to get all the information they need about a purchase before visiting a store.

This trend has had an interesting impact on store traffic. Here’s what Google had to say on the topic way back in 2016:

Consider this: Foot traffic in retail stores has declined by 57 percent in the past five years, but the value of every visit has nearly tripled. What’s happening? Mobile is driving local. People use their smartphones before heading in-store – to gather ideas, research products and then search for local information.

Basically, more informed consumers tend to visit stores less often but buy more when they go.

No. 4: Online reviews for local businesses are important to consumers

It’s no secret of that online reviews are crucial for local businesses. Almost three-fourths of consumers said they were at least somewhat likely to read online reviews, according to Netsertive’s study. When you combine that with these findings from BrightLocal’s 2017 Local Consumer Review Survey, we can see how crucial it is for local businesses to have a review monitoring and management system in place.

  • 85 percent of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.
  • Positive reviews make 73 percent of consumers trust a local business more.
  • 49 percent of consumers need at least a four-star rating before they choose to use a business.

No. 5: People turn to local businesses over Amazon for items they need quickly

Respondents were asked whether they turn to Amazon or a local business when they needed something within a few days and 43 percent went with a local business verse 29 percent for Amazon. It would be interesting to see a few year-over-year comparisons of this stat to see how quickly people are becoming more comfortable with Amazon’s two-day shipping for these types of purchases.

Do you turn to Amazon or local businesses when you need something within 2-3 days?

Where consumers turn when they need something within a few days - Amazon vs Local Stores

Related – Sleeping Advertisers Wake to Amazon’s Giant Opportunities

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