covid-19 local marketing changes hero image

It’s no secret consumer behavior has dramatically shifted in the past month amid the COVID-19 pandemic. As orders to stay home become increasingly more stringent, consumers have altered the way they purchase goods and services from businesses in nearly every vertical. For retail brands, this means consumers are expecting touchless curbside pickups or are shopping online from the convenience of their home. For restaurants, dining in is no longer an option and takeout or delivery only is the new norm. Many other industries have been heavily impacted as well—from financial services to healthcare, who have also, in turn, had to shift their business operations to comply with new COVID-19 standards. 

We’ve analyzed our own data across many diverse enterprise brands, varying in industry and number of locations, to identify the top changes in consumer’s local search behavior. Let’s dive deeper into the trends impacting local search that we have discovered.

Overarching trends impacting local search across all industries

Across all industries over a four-week period (from February 24, 2020 through March 16, 2020), we’ve seen a drastic decrease in clicks for driving directions. This can be directly correlated to stay at home orders, unless going out for essential business such as grocery shopping or visiting a healthcare provider, prompting consumers to spend significantly less time driving. Conversely, clicks to call businesses and clicks to websites have increased across almost all verticals, proving the importance of maintaining accurate listings information and appropriate communication on your local landing pages. Visit our COVID-19 resources page for the latest local marketing best practices and updates to better help you keep your customers informed of any changes to your business.

Retail

Retailers saw increases over the four-week period in all click categories except driving directions, which generally took the hardest hit across clicks in all verticals. Because of this, it’s imperative for retail brands to continue to promote their online stores for shopping as well as touchless, curbside pickup options. Google recommends retailers let their customers know whether your store offers pickup, delivery, or curbside pickup or if it isn’t open for in-store shopping. They also advise you to add or edit the “Pickup,” “Delivery,” and “Curbside pickup” attributes on Google My Business for those to be highlighted on your listings.

Retail behavior trends impacting local search infographic

*Represents data from 2/24/20-3/16/20 compared to previous four weeks

Financial Services

The financial services industry saw a decrease in both map views and driving directions over the four-week period. While customers were less interested in driving to their locations, they did show interest in calling locations and visiting their websites, indicating that consumers are still seeking financial services during the COVID-19 pandemic. Businesses that provide financial services should ensure the phone number that appears on listings correctly routes to a representative and the website conveys accurate information regarding current business operations.

Financial services consumer changes

*Represents data from 2/24/20-3/16/20 compared to previous four weeks

Restaurants

Restaurants have been among the most impacted industries amid COVID-19, as consumers in many parts of the country can no longer dine-in. Instead, many restaurants have had to adopt take-out and delivery. While restaurants saw a decline in clicks to their websites, driving directions, and map views, they have seen a noticeable increase in calls. We provided our top recommendations for communicating changes to your restaurant’s operations in a recent blog post. It’s important to note Google recently began highlighting attributes specifically for restaurants, such as takeout and delivery. Now more than ever, it’s crucial your restaurant brand utilizes these attributes to showcase the unique, contact-free services you’re offering.

Restaurants consumer behavior

*Represents data from 2/24/20-3/16/20 compared to previous four weeks

Business Services

In terms of local search, business services have seen the greatest decrease overall in clicks to call, clicks to website, clicks for driving directions, and map views. We can attribute these decreases to the need for consumers to stay home and the stronger focus as of late on “essential businesses”. Despite a decrease in clicks, we recommend the business services industry continue to focus on maintaining accurate listings and communicating any unique offerings you have. Keep in mind consumers are still actively searching for up-to-date information regarding your business.

Business services behavior changes

*Represents data from 2/24/20-3/16/20 compared to previous four weeks

We will continue to keep you updated on the latest trends we are seeing during COVID-19 to help inform your local marketing strategies. Check back frequently as we continue to add new resources.

In the meantime, if you need any support, please reach out to us and we will be happy to assist, whether you’re an existing client or simply in need of additional guidance during these uncertain times.