As the nationwide response to the COVID-19 pandemic reached a fever pitch across the U.S. in March, local businesses that could remain open had to quickly adopt new ways of serving customers, like more convenient communications, curbside pickups, local delivery and contactless payments. New research from Podium shows that the overwhelming majority of Americans have both used these services (84%) and expect local businesses to continue offering them (86%).
“While previously just a nice way to do business, offering options like contactless payments, texting and curbside pickup have become the only way for local businesses to operate,” said Eric Rea, co-founder and CEO at Podium. “There has been steady movement towards digital transformation among local businesses in recent years, which was exponentially accelerated over the past few months. Consumers have become accustomed to the new forms of communications and services, and there’s no going back.”
Consumers’ priorities when choosing local businesses have shifted, especially among women and those ages 60+. To determine how much consumer priorities have shifted due to COVID-19, respondents were asked to consider their top three factors in choosing a local business before the outbreak, and then identify their top three now:
- Prioritizing businesses that offer pick up, curbside or contactless services jumped from 13% to 49%
- The largest boost occurred among those ages 60+, with only 3% considering this a top-three factor prior to the COVID-19 outbreak compared to 41% now
- Women in particular appreciate this offering since the outbreak began (55% vs. 43% of men)
- Consumers who appreciate well-communicated safety practices jumped from 14% to 44%
- The largest boost occurred among those ages 60+, with only 5% considering this a top-three factor prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, compared to 43% now
- Women in particular value this since the outbreak began (50% vs. 40% of men)
- The importance of the price of offering lowered from 78% to 50%
- Prioritizing price amidst COVID-19 fell by almost half among those ages 60+, from 78% considering it a top-three factor prior to the outbreak to 41% now
Offering pandemic-friendly services has led to first-time customers
Nearly 3 in 5 Americans (57%) said a local business’ pandemic-friendly services (including curbside pickup, local food and grocery delivery and contactless payments) led them to purchase goods or services from a local business for the first time. Of those, 92% said they’re “likely” or “very likely” to return to this business even after COVID-19 restrictions lift.
Conversely, businesses not offering pandemic friendly services may lose business. Over 2 in 5 (43%) Americans said a local business’ failure to offer pandemic-friendly services led them to seek out and work with or purchase from a competitor, or discontinue patronage altogether
Make sure new options to communicate with customers are convenient and organized
Twenty-nine percent of Americans have had an unpleasant customer experience using a curbside pickup option at a local restaurant or business during the pandemic. Of those, 49% reported unorganized service, 42% cited slow service and 38% complained that a lack of convenient communication options made it more difficult to coordinate.
Two-thirds (66%) of those also said that the unpleasant experience made them less likely to purchase goods or services from that business in the future.
Give the people what they want: Texting
Since COVID-19, 41% of Americans are more interested in texting with a business than they were prior to COVID-19. Texting is the preferred method to communicate with local businesses (41%), over other methods such as calling (23%), emailing (18%) and website chat (15%). Nearly half (45%) of Americans have received or exchanged text messages with a local business or restaurant within the past week.
Social-distancing services are here to stay
Americans would like local businesses to continue offering pandemic-friendly solutions after COVID-19 restrictions lift:
- Curbside pickup options: 80%
- Food and grocery delivery options: 79%
- Contactless payment options: 78%
About Podium: Podium is a customer messaging platform that enables companies with a local presence to conveniently connect with their customers at critical touchpoints to help them strengthen their business. By conveniently facilitating millions of customer interactions, such as driving customer-generated online reviews and providing improved customer messaging tools, Podium serves more than 55,000 local businesses in the United States, Canada and Australia. Headquartered in Lehi, Utah, and founded in 2014, Podium is currently backed by YC Continuity, Sapphire Ventures, Alkeon Capital, Recruit Co. Ltd., IVP, Accel, Summit Partners and GV.
Survey Methodology: This nationally representative survey was conducted online within the United States by SurveyMonkey on behalf of Podium from May 26 to 27, 2020, among 1,000 Americans ages 18 and up.