Data Shows How Consumers Find Nearby Businesses to Buy Local

Last week, we launched a platform called “Local Pays Off,” which focuses on how communities benefit when consumers buy locally.  As a follow up, let’s take a closer look at how consumers find those local businesses.

We see a few themes emerge in our research:

  • There is no one single media source for businesses to establish a presence in – an integrated marketing program is required today.
  • Yellow Pages deliver good value for clients and have even seen growth in calls from ready-to-buy consumers.
  • Consumers continue to score search engines and Yellow Pages high on trust, accuracy and as a preferred source over social networks.


Local Media Reach

Our annual Local Media Tracking Study, conducted by Burke, measures reach of various local media sources.  The results show a mixed picture, which means any advertiser considering search engines vs. Yellow Pages as an either-or proposition is certain to miss potential customers.

Burke found that print and Internet Yellow Pages are the most consulted sources of local business information annually, with 79% of consumers saying they searched a print or Internet Yellow Pages in the last year.  Search engines followed, reaching 75% of consumers.  Others measured include store circulars/email promotions/coupons (69% annually), newspapers (53%), Internet social networks (34%) and magazines (31%).

Results shift when evaluating monthly use.  Burke found 66% used search engines in the last month – the most of any source – while 52% said they used print or Internet Yellow Pages, 50% used store circulars, email promotions and coupons, 32% used newspapers, 25% used Internet social networks, and 15% used magazines.

These results are similar to TNS’ 2011 Intermedia Shopping Study, which looks at media sources used by consumers who actually made a purchase.  TNS found that search engines (31.7%) were the most used among consumers who made a purchase, with print and Internet Yellow Pages second (23%).  Following were direct mail (13.8%), newspapers (10.6%), television (9.2%), coupons (7.8%), outdoor ads (5.4%), magazines (5.0%) and radio (4.5%).

Growing Print Yellow Pages Calls

Although usage of print Yellow Pages reach has declined, many clients saw an increase in the number of calls generated by their print Yellow Pages ads in 2011.

A study conducted by Patek Analytics shows national advertisers who maintained their advertising program in 2010 and 2011 (keeping the same ad size, directory and business category) saw an increase in the number of calls received.

In small markets (less than 500,000 population), calls to display and in-column ads increased 22%.  In large markets (500,000+ population), calls to display and in-column ads increased 19%.

For this study, the sample was concentrated in four categories:  Pest Control, Moving and Storage, Financial Services (e.g., insurance, loans) and Household Services (e.g., carpet and rug cleaning, plumbing contractors, appliance repair)

Another study found a similar effect in 2011 across all categories.  Preliminary results from an assessment of local call tracking studies conducted by CRM Associates found a 15% increase in total annual calls in 2011 versus 2010.

This data also tracks with the Burke study, supporting the long-believed notion that Yellow Pages drive “ready-to-buy” consumers to local businesses.  The Burke study found that three of every four print (75%) and Internet (76%) Yellow Pages users made a purchase or were likely to do so.  More than one-third of print (36%) and Internet (41%) users were new customers to the business chosen.


Trust, Accuracy & Preference

The Burke survey found that consumers generally gravitate to search engines or Yellow Pages products over social networks for trust, accuracy, and preference. Despite the rise in popularity of Internet social networks, they only generate niche support as a source for local business information in regards to these attributes.

  • Consumers equally believe that search engines and print/Internet Yellow Pages are the sources they trust most (46%).  Two percent cited Internet social networks.
  • Print and Internet Yellow Pages are viewed as the most accurate source of local business information (47%), vs. 44% for search engines and 3% for Internet social networks.
  • More consumers say they search engines are the source they go to first (47%), vs. 44% for print and Internet Yellow pages and 2% for Internet social networks.
  • Print and Internet Yellow Pages have a slight lead over search engines for ease of access and convenience (46% to 45%), vs. 2% for Internet social networks.

These attitudes demonstrate how fragmented opinions are about media and reinforce the need for businesses to have a presence in multiple media.


The Right Advertising Mix

Print and Internet Yellow Pages often reach consumers that other media don’t. TNS found low duplication rates (in the low single digits) for consumers who referenced both print Yellow Pages and other individual local media sources (newspapers, direct mail, coupons, television, magazines and radio) prior to and after the decision to buy.  Internet Yellow Pages have even lower duplication rates with the other media measured.

Given this multimedia landscape, Yellow Pages companies have adapted.  When you look under the hood of a Yellow Pages company today, it’s a completely different machine.  Yellow Pages providers have positioned themselves as the advertising agency to local businesses, offering their own products in addition to the ability to manage online ads, search engine optimization and marketing, website design, reputation management and mobile ads.



Data from the Burke Local Media Tracking Study was compiled using an online panel (80 percent of respondents) and offline/telephone survey (20 percent).  We’ve discussed the methodology on this blog before.

The TNS Intermedia Shopping Study is an annual measurement of media sources used by consumers making a purchase decision for 142 different products/services.  The survey is conducted via an online questionnaire.  The sample includes 3,850 U.S. adults 18 years of age or older.  Respondents are asked to select all types of advertising and information sources they saw, read, heard, or used prior to the decision to buy.  The same question is asked for after the decision to buy.

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