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Study: Consumers Trust Local Businesses Over Internet-Only Brands

Written by Rob Stott

November 22, 2021

Main Street independent retail local business

Although certainly a tad cliché, there’s something to be said about the trust a local retailer is able to build with their consumers through face-to-face interactions. Even in a post-pandemic world where the retail journey has been primarily web based, consumers are more likely to trust a business that’s local over some internet-based brand. That’s exactly what Uberall, a provider of local customer experience solutions, found in a recent survey of nearly 4,000 consumers.

“The pandemic increased the number of people who were using the internet for e-commerce, out of necessity,” Nick Hedges, Chief Strategy Officer & EVP North America for Uberall, said in a press release. “But that hasn’t changed the value and importance of a local presence; having both online and offline capabilities is now critical to meet the channel-agnostic needs of consumers today.”

The Uberall survey found that a large majority of consumers (88%) believe it’s important to trust the brands that they interact with, be it online or in person. And, along those lines, two-thirds of consumers surveyed acknowledged that they trust local businesses more than online-only companies.

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“Buyers are reassured by a local presence,” Greg Sterling, VP of Market Insights for Uberall, said in the statement. “People want to buy as their convenience dictates; nearby locations provide convenience as well as additional confidence to buy online, with the knowledge they can pick up or return products locally.”

While local is important, the survey did corroborate myriad other retail industry analyses that the customer shopper journey primarily begins online. According to the survey, 96% of consumers report starting their research online, regardless of where they ultimately decide to buy a product. And Google was identified as the primary consumer research tool.

Still, local intent was prevalent in the early research process, according to the survey results. Uberall found that nearly 70% of consumers said that half of their search activity involves seeking out local businesses, services and activities. That number was even more pronounced among Millennials and Gen Z.

Higher Trust. Greater Expectations.

With a higher level of trust comes a greater expectation of exceptional service. Fair or not, consumers said that they expect the most out of independent local businesses (41%), compared to national chains (38%) and online-only brands (20%).

That particular survey finding presents something of a double-edged sword to independent retailers. For one, failure to meet those higher-held expectations means one negative experience could result in a loss of trust. However, on the other side of that same coin, consistently meeting those expectations — and perhaps even going above and beyond to exceed them — presents the opportunity to create a loyal, lifelong customer (and the added benefits that go along with that, like referrals).

To the point of loyalty, the Uberall survey found that the pandemic did work to boost consumer loyalty with local businesses. In fact, 58% of respondents said that the pandemic made them more loyal to local businesses. And as for those added benefits of a loyal customer, 63% of respondents said they would refer family and friends to a business they were a fan of, and 41% said they would write positive reviews of a business.

 

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