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Report: Consumers Want Social-Distancing Services From Local Businesses Even After the Pandemic

New research from Podium highlights the COVID-19 impact on tech-enabled communications and services that consumers expect from local businesses.

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(PRESS RELEASE) LEHI, UT — 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
  • 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:
    ■ Service was unorganized: 49%
    ■ Service was slow: 42%
    ■ Lack of convenient communication options to coordinate: 38%
    ■ Two-thirds (66%) of those also said that unpleasant experience made them less likely to purchase goods or services from that business in the future

Give the people what they want: Texting

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  • 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%

To get access to the full report, click here.

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