For local businesses, competition can be fierce. In an age where consumer attitudes have shifted such that immediacy and convenience are expected—even outside of the internet—local businesses need to improve the methods they use to attract and retain customers. Even businesses that do not directly compete with online retailers still indirectly compete with the convenience and overall customer experience of our modern culture.  

Recently, Podium polled more than 2,000 U.S. adults to get their thoughts on patronizing and interacting with local businesses. Overall, the survey highlights that consumers want convenience and quick replies to concerns. Time is money, and the local tire shop isn’t just competing with the other tire shop down the road. It’s competing with the convenience, immediacy and overall experience online retail behemoths can provide.

Consumers—especially younger generations—are increasingly growing accustomed to a certain level of convenience that’s available through their constant digital interactions with people and brands. In fact, 1 in 5 respondents expects a local business to respond within five minutes before they move on to another option. So, whether they’re ordering the latest gadget online or interacting with a local car dealer, they’re seeking that same level of accessibility and rapid response.

With major online platforms investing a lot of money in engaging customers through chat services, local businesses are also adopting those types of communication methods to provide more convenience by allowing enhanced flexibility and eliminating unnecessary lag time.

And while it’s helpful to know what consumers want from their local businesses, it’s also important to note what they don’t want. While an employee lying about a product/service or a business having dirty restrooms may not be surprising deal breakers, the data shows shortcomings in communication methods can also have a significant negative impact on a business’ ability to attract customers. In fact, one in three consumers will refuse to patronize a local business if they have been unresponsive for 24 hours.

As local businesses continue to strive to meet the demands of today’s tech-savvy consumers, they must adopt new tools to accommodate the ever-changing landscape of consumer interactions. Incorporating easier methods for customer engagement will give local businesses an advantage against online competitors and allow them to establish stronger connections with their consumer base.

KEY FINDINGS

Local customers want convenience

  • Top five factors that influence customer loyalty to a local business:
    1. They make it more convenient to be a repeat customer (67 percent)
    2. I’m able to directly connect with a customer representative (60 percent)
    3. They know my name (47 percent)
    4. I am able to chat with a customer representative online (33 percent)
    5. They proactively remind me about special offers via mail (28 percent)
  • Respondents reported overall convenience as one of the most important factors that go into their decision to do business locally, right behind price and customer service:
  1. Price (57 percent)
  2. Customer service (56 percent)
  3. Overall convenience/ease of doing business (50 percent)
  • Across demographics, phone calls were still the number one method of customer communication that would most likely cause respondents to be more loyal to local businesses. However, millennial respondents were more likely to be loyal to businesses that provided social media and SMS texting as an option than older generations:
    • Social Media
      • Respondents aged 18 – 34 were twice as likely to be more loyal to a business that offered social media communication for their customers than respondents over the age of 45.
    • SMS Texting
      • Respondents aged 18 – 34 were nearly twice as likely to be more loyal to a business that offered SMS texting for their customers than respondents over the age of 45.

How convenient are phone calls actually?

  • While respondents ranked phone calls high when it comes to creating loyalty, 84 percent of respondents admitted to not answering calls from unknown numbers, resulting in lost time and missed conversations.

Time is money

  • When communicating with a local business, 1 in 5 (21 percent) respondents expect the business to respond within five minutes before they move on to another option; nearly half (48 percent) expect a response within 30 minutes.

It’s clear consumers want convenience—what do they not want?

  • Top five deterrents from shopping at a local or small business, ranked:
    1. Price of services
    2. Distance
    3. Not having the ability to communicate with the business
    4. The friendliness of the staff
    5. Poor online customer ratings
  • Local business “deal breakers” (meaning that if the business was guilty of this, you’d likely never go there again), ranked:
    1. An employee lied to you about a product or service (79 percent)
    2. Employees using foul language or being rude (70 percent)
    3. Dirty restrooms (46 percent)
    4. If you left a message, and they didn’t respond within a day (37 percent)
    5. If you emailed, and they didn’t respond within a day (30 percent)
    6. If you texted, and they didn’t respond within a day (22 percent)

ABOUT THE RESEARCH

The April 2018 study collected responses via an online survey from 2,004 consumers who are currently between the ages of 18 and 64 and located in the U.S. This research was generated by Podium in partnership with Survata.

ABOUT PODIUM

Podium modernizes the way business happens locally with products designed to help businesses be found, chosen and gain insight into their customers’ experiences. By conveniently facilitating millions of customer interactions, such as driving customer-generated online reviews and providing improved customer communication tools, Podium serves 130,000+ users across nearly 15,000 local businesses. Headquartered in Lehi, Utah, and founded in 2014, Podium is currently backed by Accel, Summit Partners, GV (formerly Google Ventures) and Y Combinator. To learn more, visit www.podium.com or contact us at press@podium.com.