74% Of Consumers Expect A Hybrid Customer Buying Experience, Study Finds

Consumers want a hybrid purchase model -- a trend triggered by COVID-19 and temporary store closures in 2020.

Marketers need to follow the data that shows how business locations were searched for more often in 2020 compared with 2019, based on buy-online and pickup-in-store strategies.

More retailers like Nordstrom, for example, opened satellite locations to accommodate nearby customer pickups.

Non-branded queries rose in dominance as consumers searched for “bookshop near me” -- not “Barnes & Noble near me” -- in 2020, which suggests that marketers this holiday season will require a hybrid shopping model for consumers.

The data was released Wednesday in a study from Uberall, which focuses on hyperlocal “near me” strategies as a software-as-a-service, as well as its subsidiary MomentFeed, acquired in June for $115 million to manage the online presence of 1.35 million business locations.

While the pandemic dramatically impacted local buying behavior, markets and businesses were affected differently.

Since consumers performed 8% more local searches in 2020, compared with the prior year, the average number of actions on a business location -- consumers asking for directions to stores, the telephone number or to visit the website -- grew by 11% from between 313 and 349 per month, per listing, according to the data.

The increase is mainly attributed to the 37% growth of clicks to phone calls and 32% to websites. Clicks for directions declined, and more people stayed home.

Convenience matters, according to the hybrid model confirmed in Uberall’s and MomentFeed’s data, especially now with supply-chain disruptions and some products still difficult to come by. Consumers want to know they have the product in hand through a local merchant.

The findings reveal that about 75% of consumers want to shop locally, even after the COVID-19 pandemic, while growth in consumer engagement with brands rose 11% in 2020 compared with 2019 and conversions through websites and phone calls in 2020 rose 35% compared with 2019.

The study also points to an interesting statistic from a Harvard Business Review study that states 85% of retail consumers say they have made additional unplanned in-store purchases when picking up an order placed online, similar to placing the candy bars and gum at the checkout to increase impulse buys.

Uberall’s and MomentFeed’s report compiles survey responses from more than 1,000 U.S. consumers, and analyzes the local online performance of nearly 80,000 business locations. Consumers want a hybrid purchase strategy, such as buying online and picking up in a local store. Sometimes those items bought online are shipped to the local store for consumer pick-up.

Uberall calls this strategy “the new face of local” -- also the name of the study. Some 69% of consumers say they use Google to find local business information, including reviews, but more than 20% also use Apple Maps, Yelp and/or Yahoo, and specific brand websites to find information about nearby businesses. About 17% use Bing, 13% fall back on TripAdvisor, 12% use the Yellow Pages, and 4% rely on other.

Industry specific websites and apps for travel, real estate, and restaurants also are important, with one out of five using these platforms.

Some 74% of consumers rely on stores at some point during their purchase process, even if the transaction ultimately occurs online. And 66% of consumers are more likely to buy something online if they can return it to a local store.

Consumers most influenced by price. In fact, 65% point to price as being the biggest influence on their decision to buy locally. The other two top factors include 38% say business distance, and 36% cite ratings and reviews.

Other things on the list include photos of the business, COVID information, how they support the community, and the story about the company’s founders, which seems to be more popular among local businesses.

As more consumers adopt hybrid shopping behaviors, it’s critical for businesses to bring more of the in-person experience online and to integrate online and offline assets to deliver consistent customer experiences across channels. 

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