Near Me customer experience company, Uberall, has released the findings of its UK consumer shopping survey. The research shows that despite switching to e-commerce en masse during the pandemic, local business locations are still essential to UK consumers and that shoppers favour ‘phygital’ retail, merging digital and physical retail, taking the best elements of each to enhance both, and optimise customer experience.
Consumer in-store visits begin online
Consumers now search online first before heading to the high street, with the majority (79%) using Google to find local business information.
Nearly one in four consumers consults content-specific websites/apps for things like travel, real estate, and restaurants, and approximately every fifth consumer says they also use TripAdvisor and Apple Maps to find the information they need.
Consequently, a strong online presence across different channels is essential, because despite Google’s dominance, consumers are using a multitude of search platforms and directories to find local business information.
Online reviews drive in-store visits
Throughout the pandemic, businesses have strived to maintain customer engagement by sharing relevant news and updates on websites, business profiles and email. While these digital channels are effective, another pillar of customer communication is social media and online review management.
The research shows that 78% of UK consumers look to Google online for local business reviews, followed by one in three consumers consulting Facebook, one in four checking Tripadvisor, and one in five seeking out Trustpilot. Nearly one-third of UK consumers look at multiple review sites before making a buying decision.
Given the large proportion of consumers that rely on online reviews, businesses can significantly increase customer engagement and build trust by being responsive to online reviews. Add to that, Google considers the number of reviews and a business’s review score in selecting its all important top three search results – especially important for businesses striving to stand out online and drive foot traffic in store.
Digital convenience drives offline sales
Shoppers want retailers to make it easy for them to find and buy products, both online and in-store. Contact free payment is important to 81% of UK consumers, with four out of ten stating they are more likely to come back to stores or restaurants that offer contact-free payments like Apple or Google Pay.
The pandemic has also changed consumer expectations about the immediacy of customer service responses, as well as the available ways to connect with stores digitally. 80% of those surveyed said the ability to text a business about products, services or hours is important, and it seems businesses are listening, with more and more outlets offering customers the ability to ask questions via text and book appointments with businesses.
The use of smart speakers to shop and buy via voice has also risen for UK consumers. In 2019, only 10% of consumers stated they used voice search daily and 57% reported that they never use voice search, per Uberall research. Now, close to one-third of consumers (30%) report that they have completed a purchase on a smart speaker, like Google Home or Amazon Alexa, in the last year.