The “The New Face of Local” report by Uberall & MomentFeed finds that consumers prefer a mix of online and offline experiences with a business, in a hybrid customer journey. Consumers prefer a consumer purchase journey that blends physical and digital experiences in a non-linear fashion.
Uberall, a global leader in ‘Near Me’ Marketing SaaS solutions, and MomentFeed, an Uberall company, released a new report, titled “The New Face of Local.” It explores how COVID-19 driven digital acceleration has given birth to a hybrid customer journey that mixes online and in-person behavior when shopping locally.
“Our report shows that as economies re-open, consumers are much less likely to distinguish between online and offline, and instead prefer a customer journey that blends physical and digital experiences in a non-linear fashion,” said Nick Hedges, Chief Strategy Officer & EVP North America, Uberall.
The report features survey responses from over 1,000 U.S. consumers and analyzes the local online performance of nearly 80,000 business locations.
Google #1 for Local Business Information
The overwhelming majority of consumers (69%) use Google to find local business information, including reviews. However, more than 20% also use Apple Maps, Yelp and/or Yahoo to find information about nearby businesses. Industry-specific websites and apps (e.g. travel, real estate, restaurants) are also important, with one out of five using these platforms.
“Google is the center of gravity for local search but it’s not the only site consumers turn to for local information,” said Greg Sterling, VP of Insights, Uberall. “People use a range of directories, sites and apps, which often change by industry or category.”
Customer Journey: Local Stores Remain Important
Despite the significant growth of e-commerce over the past year, less than 18% of US consumers prefer to research and buy products exclusively online. By comparison, 74% rely on stores at some point during their purchase process, even if the transaction ultimately happens online. Indeed, a little-understood fact is that stores support e-commerce: 66% of consumers are more likely to buy something online if they can return it to a local store.
“This is a strong indicator that consumers want a real-life experience in their customer journey – whether to evaluate the physical product in a store and/or the convenience of being able to take it home the same day,” said Hedges. “Though the internet is having a profound impact on consumer decisions, both enterprises and SMBs need to understand the relationship between online and offline behavior to succeed going forward.”
Non-Branded Searches Initiate More Customer Journeys During Covid
Already the majority of searches, Uberall found that non-branded search queries became even more dominant during the pandemic. Non-branded search is the what (“bookshop near me”), before the who (e.g. “Barnes & Noble near me”).
“The increase in non-branded local searches is a complex phenomenon, largely driven by the value consumers place on proximity, immediacy, and convenience,” said Hedges.
Engagement with Online Business Listings in 2020 was Flat; 2021 Data Indicates Rapid Recovery
COVID disrupted normal consumer activities in 2020 and the customer journey. Safety protocols and related restrictions dramatically reduced or eliminated in-person business visits in the U.S. That led to a 1% decrease in click-to actions on business listings in search (calls, clicks, directions). However, Q1 2021 saw a big uptick in engagement and actions, an upward trend that will likely continue throughout 2021 as businesses reopen.
“The data shows that a return to in-person shopping is slowly but surely reaching pre-pandemic numbers,” said Hedges. “Furthermore, the importance of local stores can’t be understated. The data shows that Americans are willing to go out of their way in many cases to support local businesses that they trust.”
Some Industries Fared Better than Others
As consumers reduced or stopped visiting stores and indoor venues in 2020, industries like finance, retail, and government fared better in terms of click-to actions on local listings. They were able to deliver alternative customer experiences over the phone or through their websites.
- Government saw the biggest increase in local listing engagement, with a 93% overall increase in actions taken from local listings, and a 115% increase in clicks to websites. This suggests citizens were seeking information from government officials on the latest regulations and restrictions, testing and vaccinations, unemployment, and more.
- Retail saw a 58% increase in clicks to websites, indicating a big e-commerce marketing shift.
- Financial and leasing services grew by 10% with the largest shift going to click to call.
In the restaurant, entertainment and travel categories, which were heavily impacted in 2020, there was a decrease in listings engagement and online actions across the board. Conversions for many of the companies in these industries depend on in-person experiences that are difficult to directly replicate online.
- Travel saw the greatest decline in actions at -47% year-over-year, not surprising given extensive travel restrictions in 2020.
- Social and entertainment industries were also greatly impacted with a -32% year-over-year decrease.
- Restaurants fared better, given the ability of many to pivot to online ordering, takeout and delivery; however, there was still a decrease in actions of -18%.
As more people incorporate hybrid shopping behaviors into their customer journeys, in an evolving and unpredictable environment it’s critical for businesses to bring more of the in-person experience online and to integrate online and offline assets to deliver consistent customer experiences across channels.
For more information and to download the report, please visit this link.