Importance of Local Search Might be Higher, Given Gas Prices

By Gary Kim May 02, 2011

Local search is one of those emerging trends where the immediate impact is a bit tough to gauge, but should grow as gasoline prices climb. A recent study by Harris Interactive, conducted on behalf of CityGrid Media, shows 67 percent of people overall agree that gas prices factor into their decision around which businesses to visit. 

A whopping 87 percent of women ages 18 to 34 said gas prices and distance influence their decision, as compared with 67 percent of men in the same age range. 

When 67 percent to 87 percent of respondents say they are paying more attention to local shopping, that's a potentially big deal. 

That could suggest an uptick for group shopping and social shopping deals with a geo-location element. It also should mean more importance for Facebook word of mouth campaigns by local retailers, and a heightened role for search, both fixed and mobile. 

According to the “2011 National Online Consumer Behavior” study, the Facebook “Like” button is a new consumer preference to show support online for local businesses. 

But search still is an overwhelmingly important activity when a buying process begins. The study shows that 63 percent of respondents under 35 head to Google when conducting research. About  17 percent of respondents clicked on the first link on the search results page.

To be sure, offline word of mouth still accounts for 75 percent of the referring activity. But 20 percent of people say they “Like” it on Facebook to show their support, compared with only 13 percent who write a review of a business. 

The study also shows that 52 percent of adults under 35 visit more than two websites before checking out a local business. As you might guess, search engines are a frequent first choice. 

About 24 percent visit Facebook, while 21 percent look at reviews sites. 

About eight percent of respondents said a “deal” is the number one thing that influences them to try a local business. Of course, that already presumes a consumer interest in the product the deal represents. 

The survey also shows the importance of a small business owner's personality and authenticity on a site. 

When doing their homework, those under 35 report that the business owner's feedback may carry equal weight to input from friends or social networks. Some 47 percent of people under age 35 are more influenced by the owner of the establishment than a friend try the business.

If you needed more evidence that putting a “human” face on a business is important, this study shows it. It is significant that the business operator's own perspective is valued about as much as the evaluations made by people somebody knows. 

The study also shows the importance of multi-channel marketing, since “no single factor or source overwhelmingly influences the final choice, including highly-touted deals and discounts,” according to MediaPost.

With the popularity of the Facebook “Like” button, businesses have a new way to create positive word of mouth about their businesses, though. 

Millennials and women are the most-likely users of the Facebook “Like” function. Some 40 percent of people under 35 “Like” a business; including 49 percent in the 18 to 24 group. About 25 percent of women report a willingness to hit the “Like” button, versus 11 percent of women who report they write reviews. 

About 18 percent of respondents overall said they would write a review. 

Gary Kim is a contributing editor for TechZone360. To read more of Gary’s articles, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Jennifer Russell

Contributing Editor

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