When we start working with a new business, one of the very first questions we ask is “How do your customers find you?” Generally, we get one of two answers – word of mouth referrals or foot traffic – people wander by the storefront, are curious, and stop in.
It may be time to reconsider that answer. A recent study conducted by Vistaprint Digital Services asked 2,000 respondents how they discovered new businesses. More than a third – 36.7% – reported that they found new businesses through online research. Word of mouth came in second, at 35%, and foot traffic was a distant fourth, at less than 10%.
During the research phase, shoppers are investigating what a business has to offer. In addition to product offerings, hours of operation, and pricing information, consumers are interested in discovering what kind of experience they can expect when they enter your business. They’re searching for some sense of your brand’s personality to determine if you’re a good fit for them.
Most of this preliminary research takes place on smartphones. This emphasizes the importance of having your business website be mobile-friendly; it also highlights the value of your social media presence. Facebook continues to be the most widely used platform, so you’ll want to be sure the information and content you have posted there is accurate and enticing to the curious would-be shopper. Additionally, depending on what type of business you have, you may need to have a presence on specialty social media sites – a shopper seriously considering a yarn store, for example, may very well do their research on Ravelry.
Knowing potential customers are researching your business online gives you an opportunity to extend them a special welcome. In addition to having a new customers offer on your home page, explore how tools like targeted Facebook advertising and Snapchat geofilters can be used to entice researchers into becoming first time shoppers.