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Survey: Consumers Want Local Businesses to Improve Online Presence

As the unofficial mantra of the social media era goes: If it’s not on Instagram, it didn’t happen. In a way, the same can be said for a small business: If it doesn’t have a website—or, at the very least, a Facebook page—it might as well not exist.

With the Internet being the first port of call for many people researching brands and retailers, companies without a website may be missing out on potential business. And there are quite a lot of them: A 2013 survey by search engine Google and research company Ipsos found that more than half of small businesses still don’t have a site.

That needs to change. According to a new report by online marketer Yodle, while 82 percent of U.S. consumers are using local businesses, they still want more ways to connect with those companies online.

The survey, which polled more than 6,000 consumers from across the country, found that three-quarters of respondents use the internet to research a business, while 27 percent will still look it up online after a word-of-mouth recommendation. And reviews are as important as the essentials: 36 percent of those surveyed said they give a business a competitive advantage and 89 percent are willing to post a positive write-up after a good experience.

“Although this survey confirms that local businesses are embraced by consumers, the results highlight that there are untapped opportunities for them to reach more consumers and improve the customer experience,” said Paul Bascobert, Yodle’s president of local.

Other key findings revealed respondents believe local businesses outperform national chains on many levels, including personalization (96 percent) and customer service (88 percent), and though shopping small can be more expensive, 72 percent of consumers are willing to pay more for better service, while 48 percent will do so to support their local community.