Despite the consistent growth of e-commerce, brick and mortar isn’t dead. In the US, more than 92 percent of retail sales happen in a store. But that doesn’t mean that local businesses should neglect their online presence. Today’s consumer does most of their ‘shopping’ online before ultimately making their purchase in the store. And Google has even found a way to track offline purchases back to online activity. 

This phenomenon is often referred to as the ROBO Economy. This means that consumers will conduct their research online and then buy offline. Online research saves the consumer countless hours that used to be spent going from business to business. Now, in just a couple of hours, consumers can get enough information to make the best decision for them.

Because of this, you need to rethink the way you attract customers and convince them to do business with you. To help you get a better grasp on how today’s consumer shops, we conducted a survey of 500 consumers in the US who have performed online research to make an offline purchase. Key findings are highlighted below.

ROBO Research Findings

Purchase decisions are quick

On average, consumers spend three hours conducting research online before deciding which business to visit in person or contact about services. And more than half spend 2 hours or less researching businesses online.

Consumers are getting right to the point with their online research. Even though they have access to information on virtually every business in their area, they are only looking at a couple of businesses before making a decision

You need to make sure your business’ online presence is optimized in such a way that it draws the searcher in and encourages them to click on your listing or your website. The content you create also needs to be helpful and encourage the consumer to want to learn more.

Lastly, it’s crucial that your business’ contact information is prominently displayed on your website and on all listings. You should also provide as many channels to contact your business as possible. Consumers crave convenience and want to be able to engage your business on their terms. As such, at the very minimum give consumers the option to call, email, or text you.

Three is the magic number

As mentioned, consumers aren’t researching a large number of businesses. In fact, our survey found that, on average, they only research three businesses before making a decision to make contact or visit in person.

This lines up with what we already know about online search behavior. Searchers are more likely to click on the top three listings within the Google Map Pack or the first page of organic search results (often located below the map back). This is even more exaggerated when searching from a mobile phone, which has much less real estate to serve up search engine results.

So what can you do to ensure your business is occupying that prime real estate? We covered local SEO in-depth already on the blog so I won’t get too far into the weeds in this post, but in short, you should:

    1. Claim and optimize your business listings


    1. Maintain consistent contact information (NAP)


    1. Upload high-quality photos


  1. Collect online reviews on the most important sites

Online searchers are motivated to buy

Once searchers have found your business and made the decision to get in touch, they aren’t wasting any time. Our research found that they will visit or contact a business within 12 hours of researching you online and 73 percent will visit within one day.

And they aren’t coming in just to take a look. Fifty-two percent (on average) of those visits end in a purchase. Consumers, for the most part, want to spend as little time as possible in the actual store, which means the decision to buy has likely been made by the time they visit your business.

This is definitely the case for me. Making conversation with people I don’t know can be like pulling teeth. I’m telling you this because I was recently in the market to buy a car, and I was DREADING the process.

So I did my due diligence, decided what car I wanted to buy, and how much I was willing to pay with the goal of getting in and out of the dealership in record time with as few awkward conversations regarding my limited knowledge about engines as possible. And it worked. I went in with all of my parameters laid out. They had the car on the lot and after a quick test drive, I was in finance signing the paperwork.

When interacting with customers visiting your business for the first time, you should assume most of them have done their homework. Be helpful, but don’t be pushy trying to steer them toward something they don’t want.

Advertising isn’t enough

Consumers today have a lot to consider when choosing a business, but when asked which factors have the most impact, price (38.5%) and online reviews (31.6%) ranked the highest. What was most surprising was how little advertising impacted purchase decisions. According to the survey, only three percent of respondents said advertising impacted which business to engage with.

Factors to Contact a Business

That’s not to say that you should abandon advertising altogether. It’s an excellent tool for creating awareness, but you shouldn’t expect advertising to influence purchase decisions.

Online reviews are important because they can help make your business look attractive to online searchers. We cite this stat all the time, but 84% of consumers say they trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations from family and friends. And more importantly, 82 percent of consumers say the content of reviews has convinced them to make a purchase.

The key is to make sure your reviews are representative of the actual experience you provide. This can be accomplished by streamlining the process to ask your customers for reviews. But online reviews don’t just influence purchase decisions. As mentioned previously, they are one of the major factors that impact your local search ranking, so they play an important role in your business getting found and getting chosen.

Make the transition easy

Finally, because consumers are discovering you online, you should try and make the transition from online to offline easy. Your online experience shouldn’t be vastly different from what it is like to interact with you in person.

The content on your website. The reviews left by your customers. The images on your listings. All of those things should be reflective of what it’s like to engage with you. If something is off, your customers will know, so be thoughtful when building your online presence and training your staff.

Learn how Podium can help you

Request a demo to see how Podium’s cloud-based solution can help you use text messages to improve customer interactions and build your online presence. Podium’s efficient, mobile process can help you improve customer relationships and better harness the voice of your customer. This will, in turn, improve local SEO and ultimately boost revenues.