Analysis of nearly 80,000 business locations and their consumer online interactions reveals new hybrid customer journey
Uberall, leading provider of ‘Near Me’ marketing solutions, today released the findings of its study on the online performance of nearly 80,000 mid-market business locations.
Although consumers turned towards ecommerce in unprecedented numbers during the pandemic, an analysis of these mid-market business locations – those with more than 26 business locations and an annual revenue of less than $500 million – and their consumer online engagement data has revealed that local businesses remain integral to today’s customer journey. It also showed that an online and in-store hybrid is their preferred approach to shopping.
Online engagement with local businesses grew in Covid times
Although it’s logical to assume there would be a decline in consumer interest in local stores in 2020 due to lockdown and stay-at-home orders, consumers worldwide actually searched for mid-market business locations more often – an 8 percent increase from 2019 to 2020 – across sectors.
An analysis of consumer online activity also shows an 11 percent growth in digital interactions with local businesses. These actions include consumers clicking on links to store directions, telephone numbers, or websites. If clicks for directions are excluded, the rise in online engagement jumps to 35 percent, as consumers sought safer alternatives to find what they needed during lockdown.
This overall increase could be due to essential stores remaining open throughout lockdown, as consumers searched online for store opening hours and offerings. This growth could also be attributed to a mixture of wanting to support local businesses and seeking personal interaction. In either case, the result has been a blending of online and local commerce.
Online engagement surged in the UK
Across the globe, online engagement with mid-market business locations rose in 2020. In the UK, however, online interactions grew significantly, at a rate far above the global average – 42 percent growth overall from 2019 to 2020. Although the UK initially saw a steep decline in online engagement in April 2020, just after the first lockdown, the number of online interactions skyrocketed 465 percent by July 2020 – close-in-time to the UK’s first re-opening. The rate of online engagement subsequently levelled out, but is still higher than pre-pandemic figures.
The UK is one of the top adopters of online commerce, with the largest online retail sector in Western Europe per the Centre for Retail Research. This familiarity with online commerce could explain why so many UK consumers turned to digital channels to facilitate offline bricks-and-mortar shopping when they couldn’t shop the way they used to and needed safer alternatives.
“Consumers are in favour of local shopping, but thanks to new commercial options, are now hybrid shoppers,” said Greg Sterling, VP Market Insights at Uberall. “Businesses have to be able to fluidly move between offline and online, and combine those assets to create the most convenient experience for the customer.”
Uberall analysed consumer online engagement for 79,548 mid-market business locations in its customer database, comparing the performance of business profiles on Google My Business in 2020 with the previous year. Mid-market refers to businesses with more than 26 business locations, but an annual revenue of less than $500 million.
Performance metrics consist of ‘queries’ – a search that a business appears in – and three types of ‘consumer engagement actions’: (1) clicks on directions to navigate to the location; (2) clicks for phone calls; and (3) clicks on links to websites.