Editor’s Note: This article was originally published by Web Marketing Today. Practical Ecommerce acquired Web Marketing Today in 2012. In 2016, we merged the two sites, leaving Practical Ecommerce as the successor.
Consumers have been relying on the Internet to find businesses and products in their local areas for years. They use social media, review websites, and mobile search to conduct research before making their purchases in local stores. Consumer shopping habits are always evolving. In fact, consumers adopt new technologies much faster than businesses, large or small.
Local businesses may look at online marketing as too complicated to tackle. This complexity has been created by multiple marketing and advertising channels. Each seems to change every few months while new ones are being added. The environment is dynamic and fluid.
Local businesses are faced with the reality of this change. Expecting change, adapting to the change, and adopting these new ideas sooner rather than later will give you the competitive edge in the local marketplace.
Shopping Habits Changing
It is much easier to ignore the reality of data and facts when that information takes us into an area of the unknown or what might be uncomfortable. Most of the time this type of information requires a change to our business and perhaps requires us to invest back into the company.
Google, comScore, and BrightLocal have separately surveyed over 10,000 consumers, to study their local shopping habits. The findings of the surveys are below.
Google Local Research Study, May 2014
Recently Google partnered with Ipsos MediaCT and Purchased® on a research study of roughly 5,000 U.S. smartphone users. The study was designed to better understand consumer local search behavior. The summary of the study showed three major findings:
- 4 in 5 consumers use search engines to find local information;
- 50 percent of consumers visited a store within a day of making a smartphone search;
- 4 in 5 consumers want ads customized to their immediate surroundings.
comScore Local Search Study, April 2014
comScore — joined by Neustar Localeze and 15miles (two marketing firms) — studied local search habits of nearly 5,000 U.S. adults in December 2013. The study, which gathered data on consumer behaviors and attitudes toward local search and content discovery across platforms and devices, validated how consumers are seeking local businesses, products, and services.
- The top three types of local searches were: (a) 41 percent were looking for addresses, (b) 36 percent were looking for products and services, and (c) 30 percent were looking for phone numbers of local businesses with their mobile devices.
- 78 percent of local searches resulted in a offline purchase.
- Top three business categories of search were restaurants, retail shops, and services.
BrightLocal Consumer Reviews Survey, June 2013
Consumers making their buying decisions based on ratings and reviews from other consumers has been growing over the past few years. The most recent study on this topic by BrightLocal in June 2013 found that local business reviews are read by 85 percent of consumers. Moreover, the study found that more than 60 percent read between two and six online reviews before they form an opinion on the business.
Online marketing is critical for the success of local business of any size. It does not always show fast results. Patience is often necessary. The good news is all activity online can be measured to determine the level of success.
Hyperlocal Internet advertising can be valuable to reach local consumers. I’ve addressed that topic here previously, at “Use Hyperlocal Advertising to Reach Nearby Consumers.”
The studies cited above confirm that local search is important to consumers. Businesses should therefore ensure that they are highly visible in local search engines and on social media and consumer review sites.