Home Blog 2024 Local search consumer behavior study: Tips & key takeaways

2024 Local search consumer behavior study: Tips & key takeaways

Welcome to Rio SEO’s eagerly awaited third annual Local search consumer behavior study, where we unveil the latest insights into local marketing for enterprise and multi-location brands. Based on a comprehensive survey of 1,000 U.S. consumers who regularly search online, this year’s findings illuminate the evolving landscape of Local Experience (LX).

In this report, you’ll find deep insights into how consumer behaviors are reshaping local interactions and purchasing decisions across retail, dining, finance, and beyond. From online search habits to the pivotal role of customer reviews and preferred platforms during local shopping journeys, we explore every facet of LX.

This year, more people are using local search than ever, with a massive 90% of local consumers now diving into online searches daily, up from 83% in 2022 and 76% in 2021. Local shoppers are all about the hybrid experience, and they’re on the hunt for local reviews to help decide whether to visit a local business.

That’s just the tip of the iceberg – this study is a goldmine of actionable trends for enterprise marketers. Discover strategies to optimize business listings, leverage local reviews, and enhance page performance insights. Equip yourself to boost local search visibility, differentiate your brand, and maximize conversions in competitive markets. Take control of your online reputation and craft unparalleled hyperlocal experiences on a global scale, fostering customer loyalty and repeat business.

Let’s begin to unpack these essential insights across three major categories that will redefine your approach to local marketing and customer engagement.

Local search insights

In the world of local search, every click, swipe, and query marks a pivotal moment in the evolving relationship between consumers and brands. Imagine a journey where each search query isn’t just a hunt for information but a gateway to a tailored experience that spans from initial discovery to long-term loyalty. This isn’t just a hypothetical; it’s the current expectation.

We found that 90% of today’s consumers conduct daily online searches, a significant uptick underscoring the pivotal role of digital touchpoints in everyday decision-making. From seeking out nearby businesses to scrutinizing reviews and comparing options, these searches aren’t merely transactions; they’re the lifeline that connects customers with the businesses that meet their needs.

Google remains the undisputed champion of local search, with a staggering 99% of respondents relying on its platforms to scout out local gems. Whether hunting down a dentist’s office or deciding on tonight’s dinner spot, consumers turn to Google for accurate, up-to-date information. However, the landscape is evolving. Trust in business websites as a source of reliable intel is rising, demanding that brands maintain meticulous accuracy across all digital fronts.

Location matters—big time. A whopping 82% of consumers frequently seek out business addresses, underlining the criticality of precise local data. This thirst for accuracy extends to operational details like hours and contact information, influencing not just where consumers shop but how far they’re willing to travel. On average, U.S.-based customers are willing to only journey up to 8 miles for local goods and services, a testament to the impact of localized marketing strategies.

The study also highlights shifting consumer priorities across sectors. Financial services now lead the pack in search frequency, followed closely by healthcare and dining options. This nuanced shift in search behavior underscores the importance of understanding not just who your customers are, but where they are in their consumer journey.

In essence, local search isn’t just about visibility. It’s about crafting a seamless, omnichannel experience that resonates from the first click to the final transaction. It’s about meeting customers where they are, anticipating their needs, and forging connections that endure beyond the digital realm. These insights illuminate a path forward for enterprise brands, offering actionable strategies to not just survive but thrive in an increasingly competitive marketplace driven by local engagement.

Check out the full report for all the deets. In the meantime, here are a few need-to-know facts from this year’s survey:

Key findings

  • 82% of the most frequently searched information on local business listings is the business address/directions, followed by hours of operation (76%), contact information (75%), and website URL (74%).
  • In 2023, a staggering 90% of respondents reported daily online searches, a significant jump from the 83% who searched daily in 2022 and 76% in 2021.
  • Consumers still expect Google (31%) to have the most accurate business information, especially Gen X (36%) and millennials (29%).

Online reputation insights

Your online reputation isn’t just a reflection of customer sentiment; it’s a strategic asset that can differentiate your brand in a competitive marketplace. This year’s survey reveals a landscape where local consumers lean heavily on online reviews to shape their purchasing decisions. These reviews aren’t mere testimonials; they’re the currency of credibility in the eyes of today’s discerning shoppers.

Whether it’s scouting out a new restaurant, selecting a financial advisor, or booking a salon appointment, the consensus is clear—positive reviews wield substantial influence over consumer behavior. Nearly 90% of consumers prioritize star ratings and the sentiment of reviews when evaluating local businesses. 

Our findings underscore the importance of authenticity in review management, too. Consumers expect to encounter genuine customer experiences online, and they reward brands that actively engage with and respond to feedback. This engagement isn’t just about reputation management; it’s a cornerstone of building lasting relationships with your audience.

Location matters in more ways than one. Consumers in different regions prioritize different aspects of online reputation. For instance, Northeastern consumers place a higher premium on a business’s online reputation when making purchasing decisions, especially for services like business providers and financial services.

Platforms like Google remain the gold standard for trust in review authenticity, with a significant majority of consumers relying on them to vet local businesses. The landscape isn’t static, though. Facebook is gaining traction in certain regions as a trusted source for business evaluations, highlighting the need for brands to monitor and manage reviews across diverse platforms.

For multi-location brands, managing online reputation at scale poses unique challenges. The key lies in leveraging technology that aggregates reviews across platforms, provides real-time alerts, and empowers local managers to respond promptly and consistently. This approach not only safeguards brand reputation but also enhances customer trust and satisfaction across all touchpoints.

Key findings

  • The average local customer reads 4.5 reviews before visiting a business.
  • 41% of consumers said online reviews and personal recommendations are equally trustworthy.
  • 84% of local customers agree that first-party reviews are likely to impact their purchasing decisions.

Customer experience (CX) insights

The customer experience is a symphony of engagements that begins with the first search and continues through every interaction – and you have the conductor’s baton. This year’s study reveals a dynamic where consumers are seeking meaningful connections with local businesses, blending online convenience with in-person experiences to meet their diverse needs.

Consider this: while online-only shopping continues to gain ground, with 26% of consumers opting for delivery services, a significant 48% prefer a hybrid approach, integrating both online browsing and in-store visits. This shift highlights a nuanced consumer preference for flexibility and immediacy in their shopping experiences, including the convenience of buy online, pick up in-store (BOPIS).

Accurate local listings play a pivotal role in shaping consumer trust. Despite some tolerance for discrepancies, such as incorrect or missing information, 76% of consumers are still likely to visit a business with these issues—a testament to the importance of maintaining up-to-date listings, especially on platforms like Google, to enhance visibility and credibility.

Post-purchase engagement is another critical touchpoint. A striking 84% of consumers expect brands to follow up on their experience, signaling a growing demand for personalized interactions and attentive customer service. This expectation varies by generation and region, with Gen Xers and consumers in the Southeast showing a particularly high preference for proactive brand communication.

When it comes to customer support, email has emerged as the preferred channel for 41% of consumers, surpassing traditional methods like phone calls and website inquiries. This preference underscores the need for brands to prioritize responsive, multi-channel support strategies that cater to diverse customer preferences and expectations for timely responses.

Across all interactions, consistency is key. Sixty-four percent of consumers cite consistent service across channels as the most influential factor in shaping their impression of a brand. This consistency extends to fast, seamless transactions, accurate business information, and personalized content that resonates with their individual needs and preferences.

Mastering the local customer experience requires more than just meeting expectations—it’s about exceeding them at every turn. 

Key findings

  • 84% consumers said it’s important the brands they do business with follow up to ask about their customer experience.
  • 64% of local customers say consistency in service across channels is the top CX element that positively impacts their impression of your brand.
  • When reaching out to a brand through a business listing or their website, 41% of consumers expect a response within 24 hours.

Learn more

Local search is so much more than visibility; it’s about creating personalized, meaningful interactions that resonate deeply with consumers from their initial search to the final transaction. This journey is guided by accurate business information, seamless communication options, and compelling online reviews that build trust and credibility.

Today’s consumers expect more than transactions. They seek authentic connections with brands that understand their needs and preferences. 

Embracing cutting-edge local search technologies empowers brand teams with efficient tools for managing business listings, tracking local rankings, and enhancing online reputation ensures consistency across markets to tailor experiences that convert curiosity into loyalty and advocacy, transforming mere searchers into devoted customers who champion your brand. These elements combine to establish a robust local marketing strategy that not only meets but exceeds consumer expectations.

Armed with a deeper understanding of local consumer behaviors, brands are equipped for a journey of delivering extraordinary local experiences that elevate their brand presence and differentiate them in competitive markets. Are you? Learn more in Rio SEO’s 2024 Local search consumer behavior study.

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