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Half of shoppers would break up with a business over incorrect online details, study finds

SOCi's Consumer Behavior Index shows consumers have little patience for online inaccuracies, including incorrect store hours, website information, contact details and more.
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SOCi has released the first tranche of its comprehensive 2024 Consumer Behavior Index, which examines shopper practices and preferences when interacting on and offline with “local” businesses, including retailers. 

“Local” businesses refer to any commercial entities nearby, ranging from independent mom-and-pop stores to nationally recognized chains with local outlets.

Based on responses from 1,000 U.S. consumers, the report finds that 80% search online for local businesses. Yet, nearly three (63%) have encountered inaccuracies in business listings on major platforms such as Google, Facebook and Instagram. These errors substantially affect brand loyalty, prompting half (47%) of all respondents to break up with a business that shares inaccurate online information, opting instead for a competitor.

[Read more: Online grocery sales reach $8B in November]

“As in any good relationship, consumers expect honesty and reliability when they seek out businesses online,” said Damian Rollison, director of market insights at SOCi. “Missteps in accuracy can quickly turn love to loss, with potential for long-term fallout. Just as no one wants to be catfished by a fake dating profile, consumers don't want to be misled by inaccurate business information. Ensuring your online profile is as trustworthy as it is discoverable is crucial.”

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In the quest for the perfect match, one-third (32%) of consumers polled said they search for local businesses every day or multiple times a day.

In terms of where they are searching, respondents mostly find brands’ online profiles on mobile apps like Google Maps (51%) and Facebook (49%) to be helpful and informative. However, Google Search remains dominant at 72% among consumers. Additionally, 66% prefer to search for information on their smartphones.

Thirty-six percent of consumers search for brands by name, while 35% use general category searches. After searching, 56% visited the brand’s website, and 19% called the business.

The study also shows that 84% of consumers find new products, services and businesses online through social feeds, search results or recommendations. The most common searches are for restaurants (56%), followed by retail stores and grocery stores (42% each), medical facilities (28%), gas stations and hotels (21% each) and movie theaters and banks (20% each). A wide array of categories each got significant attention from consumers, likely differing due to frequency of need.

“In the complicated relationship between consumers and brands, brands need to ensure that every digital touchpoint counts and makes a positive impression,” said Rollison. "Our data highlights the necessity for businesses to have accurate and optimized online profiles to meet consumer search behaviors, whether by brand name or category.”

One result of the pandemic is that consumers have increased the amount of time they spend online and are spending more time researching businesses online before engaging offline. With new features for businesses, consumers expect to research, weigh options and make appointments online first. About 91% of respondents start their journey to an offline purchase online, mirroring how relationships often begin digitally.

[Read more: Online grocery sales reach $8B in November]

When considering a visit or contact with a local brand, consumers have clear preferences, much like they do when swiping through potential matches. Quality (62%), cost (61%) and the accuracy of data (59%) top the list of priorities. These were followed by proximity (49%), speed of service (49%) and brand reputation (46%).

“Online profiles for businesses used to be a lot simpler than they are today,” said Rollison. “Now, they include online booking information, online ordering, reviews and Q&As to provide customers with a richer experience. Consumers have become accustomed to having these conveniences right at their fingertips. Brands still stuck in the past and not optimizing their online profiles may lose out on significant market share.”

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