Customers like to frequent stores that make doing business easy.
A new survey indicates customers will support local businesses that provide omnichannel means of shopping and engagement.
The annual State of Local Business Report from communication and payments platform Podium indicates that consumers are looking for convenience when supporting local businesses. More than half (54%) of surveyed consumers cited "ease of doing business" as a leading reason they choose to work with a local business for the first time, second only to price; and 60% said it is as a top reason they would go back to a business after the first time, second only to price.
In addition, 57% of surveyed consumers said they would refer friends and family to a business due to ease of business. Forty-six percent of surveyed consumers actively seek out businesses that provide alternatives to speaking on the phone, such as text and chat; and 43% actively seek out businesses that minimize personal contact.
Examining customer desire for contactless or limited-contact interactions as the country eases COVID-19 restrictions, two in five (40%) surveyed consumers still want contact-free transactions, 44% still want increased digital and mobile communications, and three in five (59%) still want expanded pick-up and delivery options.
Surveyed consumers also expressed strong loyalty to local businesses, especially those that are active in the community, Nine out of 10 surveyed consumers say they go out of their way to do business locally, and seven in 10 frequent a local business once a week or more.
When asked how positively they perceive their local businesses, surveyed consumers gave an average rating of four out of five stars Three in four say they are more likely to spend money at a local business if the business shows support of community issues and/or charitable causes
Podium also surveyed local businesses on a variety of issues. Notable findings include:
92% of local businesses say consumer expectations have changed since the start of the pandemic.
Among local businesses with line of sight into investments, nearly 75% report purchasing technology in the past 12 months to help their teams work more efficiently.
68% of local businesses say their business actively supports local charities or causes.
Local businesses report that after word of mouth, their most effective marketing channels are all digital, outpacing traditional channels like out-of-home advertising and mail.
In addition, the top business challenges for surveyed local businesses during the past year include:
Staffing and hiring: 52%.
Supply chain and inventory: 48%.
Pandemic-related restrictions and protocols: 45%.
Managing increased demand: 26%.
Changing customer expectations: 23%.
"When the pandemic first hit, many of us went out of our way to support a local business and had to adjust to new ways of interacting with them from curbside pick-up to payments over text," said Eric Rea, co-founder and CEO at Podium. "What this latest report shows is that supporting local is here to stay and so are pandemic-friendly services. Consumers are deeply invested in supporting the businesses that keep their local communities thriving and they've come to expect digital-friendly ways of doing business with them."