Online customer engagementLocal businesses need to offer more options for online customer engagement, according to a new survey from Yodle titled, Yodle Insights: What Consumers What from Local Businesses.”

The survey examined how U.S. consumers find, choose, use, and interact with local businesses and what they would most like from them. What’s more, the survey analyzed the local perception of businesses in 20 mid-market cities.

Most consumers (82%) are using local businesses, and during the next year almost half (48%) plan to increase their usage, the survey says. Less than 1% of survey respondents say they will decrease their use of local businesses over the next 12 months.

Here are some more key takeaways from the survey:Online customer engagement

Consumers want more ways to connect online with local businesses. Consumers ranked website improvements as the change they are most interested in seeing from local businesses over the next year, and also identified offers for returning customers as the best way for a local business to stand out from its competition. When asked about a variety of different types of communication such as service/appointment reminders and advice/helpful tips, consumers identified a significant gap between what they are currently getting from local businesses and what they are open to receiving.

Online reviews are expected and satisfied customers are happy to help out. Three-quarters of consumers say that having reviews either gives the business a competitive advantage (36%) or is expected (40%). But less than 1 in 10 consumers (7%) have been asked to write a review of a local business even though the vast majority (89%) is willing to do so if they had a positive experience and were asked.

Local businesses should compete on service and quality, not on price. Consumers believe that local businesses outperform national chains in many areas. For example, nearly all consumers (96%) think local businesses beat national chains on personalizing service. Although most consumers (77%) say national chains offer more competitive prices, nearly three-quarters (72%) are still willing to pay more to a local business for better quality work.

Local businesses need to have a comprehensive online presence. The vast majority of consumers (75%) today use the internet to find or research a business.  What’s more, survey respondents are using review sites and social media to identify the businesses they want to work with.

“We conducted this survey because we are committed to helping local businesses succeed,” said Paul Bascobert, President of Local at Yodle. “Although this survey confirms that local businesses are embraced by consumers, the results highlight that there are untapped opportunities for them to reach more consumers and improve the customer experience.”

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