What do local consumers want most from local business websites?
In 2014 we ran a survey that explored what local consumers want most from local business websites. We learned that most local consumers expected a local business to have a website. We also drilled down into what website features and content were needed to inspire trust in consumers and help convert browsers into actual customers.
In February 2016 we re-ran the survey – with some minor alterations and 1 new question. We can now see how the past 24 months have changed in the eyes of the consumer. Do consumers see local business websites as more or less critical? Do consumers still expect the same features & content in order to trust a business?
Or has the growth of mobile and tablet usage changed consumer attitudes and consumption in a major way?
In the 2016 survey we had 800 respondents from the United States. The distribution of region, age and gender was pretty equal. We’ve followed up this post with a gender and age breakdown of the findings.
Key areas looked at in 2016 survey
- Consumer attitudes towards local business websites
- Key info on a local business website
- Website factors which make consumers want to use a local business
- Common problems on a local business website
- How consumers prefer to contact a local business
Consumer attitudes towards local business websites
(Above): We asked our consumer panel which of the statements best applied to them.
- 36% of consumers are more likely to contact a local business with a website (vs 32% in 2014)
- 34% of consumers think a ‘clear and smart’ website gives a local business more credibility (vs 36% in 2014)
- 21% of consumers say it doesn’t matter if a local business has a website or not (vs 27% in 2014)
- 9% say a bad or ugly website can put them off using a local business (vs 5% in 2014)
In aggregate, the findings show that purchase decisions made by local consumers are more impacted by websites now than in 2014.
- More consumers contact a business if it has a website (36% vs 32%)
- More consumers say they are put off by an ugly website (9% vs 5%)
- Fewer consumers will use a business that doesn’t have a website (21% vs 27%)
And…having a smart website gives a local business credibility in eyes of consumers. This metric is down slightly on 2014 but was still chose by 34% of survey respondents.
To summarize for business owners –
- Consumers expect you to have a professional website and they are more likely to make contact with you if you do.
- Having a bad or ugly website may not be the most off-putting thing to consumers either – you stand to lose more by simply not having a website.
Key information on a local business website
Most important factors
(Above): We gave our consumer panel a choice of 18 factors, and asked them which information is the most important to them on a local business website (respondents were asked to select up to 3 answers).
- A list of products, opening hours, phone number and price list are the most important information on a local business website
Least important factors
(Above): In this chart we display the factors that were of lesser importance to consumers.
- Pictures, accreditations and blog updates are of lesser importance
- Consumers also don’t see having a ‘mobile friendly’ as a decisive factor in choosing a business
With any website the key objectives are to make it easy for customers to find the information that’s most important to them and to convert them into leads or customers.
Looking at the most important factors we can see which info visitors to local sites are most keen to find. This list varies only slightly from 2014 with the top 5 factors remaining the same –
- product/service list
- price list
- opening hours
- phone number
- physical address
Last year we referred to this list as the 4 P’s – Products, Phone, Price, Physical Address.
This year ‘opening hours’ has muscled its way into 2nd slot so we need to adapt this neat little acronym –
- If you have any suggestions for an Acronym, then leave as a comment and we’ll publish 🙂
What is clear is that local consumers are after practical information that allows them to very quickly assess if a business meets their needs –
- Product list – “does this business provide what I’m looking for?”
- Prices – “can I afford to use this business?”
- Opening hours – “when can I visit this business and is it open now?”
- Phone number – “can I call the business?”
- Physical address – “how do I get to the business?”
None of these features/content relates to the design or style of a website.
Of the factors that are considered less important, it’s customer testimonials, images (of premises or staff), FAQs, accreditations, or a regularly updated blog, etc.
We should clarify that these are good features to have; they will help to inspire trust, establish expertise, answer more tricky questions and even encourage return visits from knowledge-hungry customers.
Crucially however they are not the first thing that local consumers are looking for… If a local business can provide the most important info first and foremost then these additional features can be added later to enhance the website experience.
It’s interesting that mobile-friendliness is one of the lowest-ranked requirements by consumers. We would expect this to be higher as mobile usage increases amongst consumers. We might also expect that younger consumers would rate this higher – we’ll find out in our ‘Gender and Age’ breakdown to be published in March.
Website factors which make consumers WANT to use a local business
In Charts 2 and 3 above we looked at the information that consumers considered the most important, ie. a checklist of the features they expect. In this chart, we examine the features that are most likely to ‘persuade’ a consumer to use that business. Again, respondents were asked to select up to 3 answers.
Most Important ‘Positive’ Features:
- Details about the business (e.g. company origins, products, services, people)
- Business proximity
- Clear address & contact details
- Customer testimonials
These 4 features/content items have the biggest influence on whether or not a consumer contacts and uses a local business
Consumers will be more likely to use a local business if it displays informative company details on its website (e.g. company origins and/or history, basic details about the products/services offered, the local areas in which the company operates and mission statement, etc). As well as telling a customer what a business does and who’s behind the business, it also reinforces the values and personality of the business which can have a very positive effect on potential customers.
Another important factor is business proximity, meaning how close the consumer is located to that business. Convenience is a factor for many consumers and so using a business near to them is often more convenient that one further away. This is something that’s beyond the control of a local business, but it’s worth bearing in mind when thinking about local SEO optimization tactics.
Having clear address and contact details are also key. If consumers have additional questions or concerns about a business then they want to alleviate those as quickly as possible.
Web designers, SEOs and local business owners can use this information as a blueprint for building a successful website. It’s all too easy to get bogged down in design minutiae or subtle functionality, while consumer needs are pretty basic. Deliver the basics first and then worry about the finer points.
Common problems on local business websites
Note: Having looked at positive factors, we now asked our consumer panel about factors on a website that stop them from wanting to use a local business (respondents were asked to select up to 3 answers).
Biggest Negatives for a local website:
- Poor quality content
- No phone number displayed
- No prices displayed
- Business isn’t local enough
If a local business has very little, or poor content (e.g. misspellings, poor grammar, spammy SEO text), then this is a major barrier to potential customers using that business. Of course, this should be common sense to most business owners, let alone SEOs, but it’s useful to bear in mind. If a business can’t even get the words on their website correct then how can a consumer trust it to deliver a quality service?
Likewise, not displaying phone number(s) or prices are clear barriers. Consumers clearly want to get in contact with a local business, and this is often their main reason for visiting the website. So make it simple.
Some websites will hide or disguise product/service costs in the hope of generating more initial leads, but this is often a mistake. Local businesses, like all businesses, should be transparent and upfront in their pricing and make it clear to consumers what they are getting for their money.
Business proximity to the consumer is not something a business can easily change or prevent, and of course, it often depends on the type of business.
How consumers prefer to contact a local business
- 41% of consumers prefer to contact a local business on the phone after viewing their website
- 20% of consumers prefer to email the business
- 19% of consumers want to visit the business*
*Because not all local businesses have premises or serve customers at their home/office then this result will naturally be lower
Once a consumer has visited a local business website, the no. 1 preferred method of communication is to call them on the phone (41%). Therefore, it’s obvious that a phone number should be clearly displayed on the homepage.
After this, it’s sending an email (20%), which coincidently comes higher than a contact form (10%). Perhaps consumers feel more confident that an email will be delivered and read, while a contact us form may land in a lonely, unmonitored inbox somewhere!
Some consumers don’t like to use contact forms; not only are they impersonal, but they also don’t allow the user to keep a record of that initial contact – which if it is an important query – can be vital.
A lot of consumers will prefer to visit the store or premises (19%), which reinforces the importance of displaying clear address details and or maps/driving directions.
The most important thing for business owners/web designers/SEOs to note is that different people like to make contact in different ways. So to maximize the conversion to contact, a website should offer as many contact options as possible.
In summary, consumers want, or even expect a local business to have a website. They expect to find clear lists of products and services, opening hours, contact details and price lists.
Consumers will be encouraged to use a local business if it displays clear company details, contact details, testimonials and is located close to them. What they don’t want to find is poor quality content or a lack of contact details and prices.
A local business website doesn’t have to be the most complex website in the world, but nor does it have to be the most basic. By all means, draw consumers in with great images, videos, a regularly updated blog and customer testimonials. However, do ensure that the key information they want and expect to find is present and easy for them to find. If local SEOs and business owners can follow these few simple rules, then they will not go far wrong.