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The State of Local Business 2020—Key Insights

This post originally appeared on the Podium Blog.

Everyone is talking about these ‘uncertain times’ as if we’ve ever lived in ‘certain times’. The reality is, uncertainty is the only certainty. That’s why the local businesses that survive are the ones that adapt daily. Success in business is a process, not a destination.

In light of this, we recently surveyed 1,000 consumers across the US to get a pulse on the current consumer mindset. We had a hunch that the COVID-19 pandemic had changed consumer expectations almost overnight and wanted to uncover the top ways that local businesses must adapt to meet those new expectations. Here’s what we found.

1. COVID-19 has changed how consumers choose local businesses.

The top influencing factor hasn’t changed—it’s price. But while before COVID price was the most commonly prioritized factor by a landslide, it now only beats offering curbside and contactless services by less than 1%. This indicates an important shift in customer priorities from cost to experience with a growing expectation for safety and convenience.

2. Social distancing restrictions have made many consumers more interested in texting with local businesses.

While texting was already the preferred communication method for 9 out of 10 consumers, 42% of respondents said they are more interested in texting with local businesses now than they were before COVID-19. Over 60% of consumers reported having received or exchanged text messages with a local business within the last 30 days. And over 65% of consumers, of all ages, think that texting makes working with a local business more convenient.

3. Consumers prefer texting to other methods of business communication.

This sentiment is not limited to millennials. Texting is now the preferred communication channel of all age groups, including those over 60 years old. Additionally, our survey showed that consumers are almost twice as likely (1.8x) to prefer texting over any other communication method that a business offers (including calling, emailing, website chat, and Facebook Messenger.)

4. Consumers don’t want pandemic-friendly services to go away once restrictions lift.

Of consumers who have taken advantage of services like curbside pickup, local delivery, and contactless payments, 80.3% want one or more of those services to continue post-COVID. Almost 90% of consumers say they are likely to return to a business they first visited because of pandemic-friendly services, even after restrictions lift. And over 50% report having avoided local businesses that do not offer such services, choosing to discontinue patronage or jump ship to competitors.

Next steps for local businesses

With these changes in mind, what steps do you need to take to move forward successfully?

  1. Determine what needs to change in your business to meet new expectations that have arisen in wake of COVID-19.
  2. Invest in processes and tools that will help make these changes sustainable as business picks back up.
  3. Gather feedback from customers regularly to keep a pulse on changing expectations.

The face of business is changing rapidly and unprecedented challenges lie ahead. But from what we’ve found, if you work to keep a close eye on what your customers expect and need, you’ll be able to innovate and adapt quickly for success now and in the future.

To learn more, check out our full State of Local Business in 2020 report. And visit this page to learn more about how Podium’s integration in Open Dental can help your business.

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