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Grow Your Business Sales & Marketing

The Store Next Door: Online Customers Go Local

The Store Next Door: Online Customers Go Local
Credit: Roshan_NG/Shutterstock

"Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name." 

So goes the familiar theme to "Cheers," though recent research suggests that for online shoppers in 2015, "sometimes" may actually be a bit of an understatement.

An April survey conducted by Yodle and reported on eMarketer.com asked Internet users in the United States whether they were more likely to buy online from local businesses or major national chains. Despite the latter often having lower prices, 56 percent of respondents preferred shopping locally. The main reason the majority opt for mom-and-pop shops over the Walmarts of the world? Better, more personalized customer service.

In virtually every customer-experience-related category, local businesses bested their national chain counterparts, the research shows. When asked about the areas in which local businesses outshone national chains, 88 percent of respondents said customer service overall, with 96 percent specifically preferring the more personalized service of a smaller business. Almost 90 percent of respondents said local businesses were fairer and more trustworthy, while 86 percent found the quality of their work to be higher than that of the national chains. Furthermore, nearly 80 percent said local businesses were more reliable and likely to deliver on their promises and nearly the same amount preferred the quality of the staff.

There were, however, two areas in which the national chains beat local businesses in the eyes of consumers — business stability and competitive pricing. 

But data from the same survey suggests local businesses have been making progress in those areas as well. More than half of the respondents reported seeing increasingly competitive prices in local businesses over the past two to three years, with about 20 percent of those polled saying they would like to see that trend continue in the coming year. About 50 percent said they have noticed more specials, deals and offers from local businesses, and 44 percent report improved security measures.

Perhaps most notably, more than 66 percent of respondents saw an improvement in their local businesses’ websites, whether in the form of a better overall website, newer functions or mobile accessibility.

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