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Why local businesses must look online to look forward

By Kyle Robbins
21 March 2022 | 11 minute read
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As Australia looks to leave COVID-19 firmly in the rear-view mirror, a new report has shown many consumers would like to see the business and communication trends established during the pandemic remain.

Podium’s State of Business report has revealed a number of key findings, including what businesses can expect from their customers in 2022, how they can increase operational efficiencies, as well as uncovering how leaders can retain employees amidst a turbulent marketplace.

The survey, which spoke to 302 Australian consumers and 32 businesses, found that even as the world returns to pre-pandemic “normal”, many consumers expect trends born from the pandemic, such as the digitalisation of business, to remain.

Nearly one in two consumers surveyed by Podium indicated that their new expectations, habits, and preferences are permanent – with 44 per cent of respondents indicating they will actively seek out businesses that minimise personal contact.

An even higher percentage (54 per cent) of consumers revealed that they actively seek out businesses that are providing alternatives to speaking on the phone – instead preferring to communicate via text and live chat.

Texting has long been a preferred method of communication for consumers – as favoured by nine out of 10 respondents – but Podium found that the onset of the pandemic had made this communication tool even more favoured – with 42 per cent of consumers stating that they are more interested in texting local businesses now than they had been prior to COVID-19.

According to Podium, these statistics make it all the more important for businesses to remain vigilant to changing consumer practices.

With 92 per cent of businesses acknowledging that consumer preferences have changed since March 2022, it’s inevitably led to higher digital inquiry traffic – up by 37 per cent on pre-pandemic levels.

But despite this move to minimal contact and online, consumers aren’t wanting to leave their local businesses behind – and that is good news for real estate agencies.

Podium’s report also found that the “support local” sentiment in Australia “is as strong as ever”.

Doing business locally is an integral part of everyday life with seven in 10 consumers frequenting a local business at least once a week,” it was revealed.

The report found that a majority of consumers are prioritising dealings with local businesses – with a special focus on businesses that share that community and charity focus.

With more than nine in 10 consumers going “out of their way” to do business locally, respondents to the survey revealed that three in four consumers are also likely to spend more money with a local business if it supports community and/or charitable causes. 

They’re also more likely to want to interact with these businesses. According to Podium, consumers are 19 per cent more likely to opt-in to a local business’ SMS marketing lists than they would a major chain or big business and twice as likely to compared to an online or e-commerce business.

So what do these consumer trends mean for agency owners?

Businesses that are adapting their processes to align with the digital consumer landscape will be better off in the post-pandemic business landscape – even if they are local businesses.

With the digital shift already underway, and many businesses already spending more on their digital presence, those that will be left behind will be the ones who are not already actively investing in online and digital communications – or their local communities.

Why local businesses must look online to look forward
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