People Still Search For Local Businesses, Phone Calls On Rise

Marketers shouldn’t assume local searches have tanked. Data released Friday shows that local impressions fell a mere 10% between mid-January and mid-March.

Greg Sterling, VP of insights at Uberall, believes this is due to the management of a company’s digital presence, especially for multi-location brands and single-location businesses that have become even more critical now.

Location marketing platform Uberall analyzed 650,000 Google My Business profiles in 200 business categories in United States, Germany, France, Italy, and the United Kingdom. The findings offer a look at how COVID-19 impacts consumer buying and local search as lockdown rules and behavior change. 

Some businesses are booming during the pandemic. Food, as many marketers can imagine, continues to drive most phone calls. Grocery stores have seen phone calls rise more than 94%, with calls related to takeout up more than 100% between mid-January and mid-March.

Site visits from local searches to grocery stores rose more than 118%, while visits to health and medical businesses rose more than 147%.

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Consumer behavior in Italy, one of the hardest-hit European countries, reflects these overall shifts. Phone calls in Italy rose 150% and website traffic rose 140% in the aggregate, but driving directions fell by 50%, which make sense.

The significant decline in requests for driving directions across most business categories, globally is interesting to see. A few are showing slight increases, with the exception of health and medical.

While directions to clothing and fashion retailers fell 58%, directions related to health, home care and medicine facilities rose 304%. Education fell 98%; airline and airports, 56%; sport venues, 48%; hotels, 51%; electronics retailers, 41%.

Medical facilities and home care are not the only categories showing a rise in directional queries. Bicycle stores saw a jump to 21%, with grocery stores up to 18%; financial services, 54%; and garden stores, 55%.

Visiting websites and making phone calls are taking the place of physical activities. Website clicks for motorcycle sales and repair shops rose 15%; internet service providers, 35%; arts and entertainment services, 46%; and cleaning services, 48%.

Phone calls to gyms rose 55%; airlines and airports, 79%; grocery stores, 94%; restaurants takeaway, 94%; cleaning services 1.45%; arts and entertainment, 1.69%; and health and medicine, 2.31%.  

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