A recent consumer research study conducted by Local Corporation revealed a growing number of consumers are researching local businesses on mobile devices before walking through the door or calling for home service.
The study found that 76% of people surveyed had used a smartphone to locate and/or research a local business, and that 49% used their smartphones to locate ratings and reviews.
While the study demonstrates a marked increase in the role of smartphones in locating and researching local businesses, the number of consumers using tablets, laptops, and desktop computers also increased. In short, Internet research is now a regular part of the buying process for local goods and services, and the research is being conducted across multiple channels.
We have written about the process of researching online before selecting a local business several times over the years; e.g., here and here. As expected, the trend is increasing, but now consumers are taking to multiple platforms to fulfill their research.
One of the key takeaways from Local Corporation’s report is the amount of steps consumers are taking online as part of the buying process. These steps include looking up price comparisons, product research, deals and promos, and customer reviews.
When asked which resources were regarded as the top time-savers in the Internet research process, two items were nearly tied: total cost of product was cited as most important for 65% of respondents, and customer reviews were cited by 64%.
It is simply not good enough to be found first. Consumers have become increasingly sophisticated at researching local businesses online to make their selections and are willing to look around. As the Local Corporation report demonstrates, information itself is now key to competitive differentiation.
In terms of the information that sets one business apart from another, customer reviews are still the most sought-after and compelling resource. A point that is reinforced by a similar study conducted recently by Bright Local that showed a 12% increase in the number of consumers who seek out customer reviews.