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For consumers deciding where to bring their business, size doesn’t matter as much as customer service, based on recent research. According to an April 2015 study by Yodle, local businesses represented 56% of businesses used by US internet users, vs. 44% for national chains.
Local businesses beat the big guys when it came to personalization and customer experience as a whole. When asked about the areas in which local businesses outperformed national chains, 96% of respondents said they were better at personalizing service. More than nine in 10 said local businesses were more trustworthy and better at treating them fairly, and a similar percentage said they were better at customer service overall. Local businesses also boasted better quality and service. Meanwhile, the only categories where national chains performed better were business stability and competitive pricing options.
When asked about the influence of select factors on their perception of local businesses, internet users’ responses again emphasized the importance of a customer focus. Fully 57% said special offers for returning customers set a business apart, and 31% expected this. The ability to book or request an appointment online was also a differentiating factor, and one that 28% expected. Further, 28% said online payment options set a business apart, and more than one-third expected this.
Respondents reported seeing improvements across the board for local businesses over the past two to three years. Fully 45% of web users had seen improvements in local businesses’ customer service focus, and specials deals and offers had also improved—and about one-fifth of respondents wanted to see each of these increase even more in the coming year. The majority had also noticed efforts to improve competitive pricing, and more than a fifth wanted to see this in the next 12 months. Website improvements were the biggest change—and the most in demand for the future.
Based on May 2015 polling by BrightLocal, local businesses would be wise to focus on the last website option—mobile. Fully 38% of US mobile device users said they were impressed when they found a local business with a website designed for mobile, and one-third said all local businesses should have mobile sites.
For local businesses to remain at the top, they’ll need to continue to provide a superb, personalized customer experience and reward loyal customers, as well as improve competitive pricing and websites.
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