Consumers Discover Small Businesses Primarily Through Word-Of-Mouth and Online Research

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Vistaprint Digital Services and Google Consumer Surveys recently teamed up to find out how consumers in the US are discovering the small businesses they are interested in and want to buy from. Vistaprint and Google surveyed 2,000 US adult consumers in the March to April 2016 timeframe and found that when it comes to bringing in new business, word-of-mouth is still the most effective marketing channel for small businesses. 

Word of Mouth

Over one-third (35%) of survey respondents revealed they find out about small businesses through word of mouth, 36.7% indicated they use online research. The research results do not specify which word-of-mouth methods small businesses use to get noticed, but one may expect this to be referrals from satisfied customers and face-to-face contacts at local networking meetings such as the chamber of commerce, BNI, networking groups and tradeshows.

Online Research

Slightly more than one-third (36.4%) of the survey respondents said they often do research online before visiting a small business; 22.8% said they always do online research before visiting a small business. Vistaprint did not provide any details on what methods and tools consumers used to conduct the online research, but based on other research done on this subject one can assume that most online research has started with a search at Google, Bing, Yelp or other local online directories.

Social Media

Consumers were also polled on the importance of a small business’ social media presence. More than one-third (38.1%) of respondents said that it was somewhat important for a small business to have a social media presence. One-in-four (24.3%) indicated it was an important attribute. Vistaprint did not provide any specific information on which social network platforms consumers prefer when interacting with small businesses on social media, but we expect that Facebook is the favored tool due to its high user count.

Small Business Website

Various studies, including this one by local search platform BrightLocal, have revealed that the presence of a website is a highly important factor for consumers when choosing a small business to do business with. Over one-third (36.1%) of consumers surveyed by Vistaprint said they were not very likely to visit or purchase from a business if it has a poorly designed website. Little less than half (44.8%) said they were somewhat likely to visit or purchase from a business if it has a poorly designed website. Fresh, up-to-date website content is also important to many consumers. More than half (52.6%) of the survey respondents said they primarily search for product information on a business website, while one-in-five (21.9%) indicated they mainly search for business hours. The full research results are listed in the infographic below.

Small business marketing stats