Reports of High Street’s death greatly exaggerated: Uberall survey finds 86% of UK consumers say it’s important to support local businesses

Despite pandemic’s e-commerce boom, 2 out of 3 consumers trust local businesses more than online stores

Uberall, a global leader in ‘Near Me’ marketing solutions, today announced the results of its customer experience survey of 3,857 people in the UK, France, Germany and the US*. The study looks at the role local shops play in consumer buying habits, as well as their expectations in terms of customer experience, brand relations and engagement.

Despite reports heralding the end of the UK High Street, a staggering 86% of UK consumers still believe it’s important to support local businesses, a cause many rallied behind when the COVID-19 outbreak began. This includes independent businesses and neighbourhood outlets of chain stores.

“When the pandemic first hit, it created a call to action to support local businesses, and you can see in our data that such a sentiment still holds strong,” said Florian Hübner, Founder and CEO of Uberall. “And in an era where it’s easy, convenient, and safer to use online stores, we see many still keep their ties to the neighbourhood shops that they’ve frequented their entire lives.”

Trust matters, and consumers trust local more

The vast majority of UK consumers (89%) feel it’s important to trust the businesses they buy from, and the data shows that nearly two-thirds of consumers trust local businesses more than those that are online, particularly amongst older generations. More than 75% of Baby Boomers surveyed agreed with this sentiment, as compared to 64% of Millennials and 57% of Gen Zs.

Being located within the community was listed as one of the top bases for increased trustworthiness, amongst other considerations like recommendations from friends and positive online reviews. What’s more, when asked what makes them emotionally connected to a business, 55% said being located in their area.

“It’s clear that shoppers trust the stores they’re familiar with over online-only brands, with few exceptions,” said Greg Sterling, VP of Market Insights, Uberall. “Shopping online can be convenient, but customers recognize the value of merchants with both online and offline channels, representing trust and convenience.”

Exceeding expectations and creating customer loyalty

Although local businesses enjoy a tremendous amount of support from consumers, they also face higher expectations. A whopping 85% of UK respondents said they have the highest expectations of local businesses, whether independent or part of a national chain, as compared to only 14% for e-commerce websites.

And with 51% of survey respondents citing excellent customer service as key to customer loyalty, it’s clear that local businesses must meet these higher expectations in order to maintain the support and trust of consumers.

This goes hand-in-hand with what respondents consider a great customer experience. Over half of those surveyed said a friendly, helpful staff was the most important factor of a great customer experience, with affordable prices and responsiveness – connecting with a real person and having questions answered quickly – rounding out the top three.

While many (71%) agree that most businesses meet their expectations, only 15% said they exceed them. When it comes to great customer experience, there’s clearly room for improvement. Businesses stand to benefit considerably from stepping up their game when it comes to customer experience, particularly as 58% of UK respondents, the highest among all the countries surveyed, said that they would be willing to spend more money for a great experience.

Customer experience and today’s online/offline journey

Digital is now the dominant way consumers discover information about the products and services they need, with 96% of consumers conducting online research before buying, whether online or in store. But the trend of consumers researching online doesn’t only benefit e-commerce.

Two out of three UK consumers (67%) say at least half of their overall online search activity is about businesses and services in their local area. This trend is even more prominent among younger age groups, with Gen Z and Millennials more likely to spend time researching businesses than Gen X or Boomers.

While there’s a tendency to view digital commerce and local commerce in opposition, the research reveals that while the customer journey most often begins online now, there is robust consumer demand for it to continue offline, in stores and with real people.

*About the Data

To better understand consumer expectations, trust, and loyalty, Uberall conducted a survey in September 2021 among 3,857 adults ages 18 and older in the UK, US, Germany, and France. The survey represented a diverse sample of ages and genders.