Data Analysis of Consumer Sentiment for Small Businesses During COVID-19
ZypMedia connects local businesses with their local customers and the COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc on both local businesses and communities. Almost half of the U.S. private workforce is employed by a small business and, prior to the crisis, we all interacted with these vital product and service providers to some extent daily.
To provide small businesses with consumer’s insights to survive and thrive through the pandemic, ZypMedia executed a survey of over 550 consumers across America to better understand how this has impacted local vs. national shopping patterns, what has been missed the most, and what consumers wish would re-open first. We also looked into what local businesses might do now and in the near future to re-engage with local communities and get back in business.
In the end, we are all local consumers who miss the convenience and community inherent in our local businesses and services. The goal is to use this survey to better understand the complexity and confusion of this time, and to understand where to focus in order to best navigate through this trying time from both a consumer and a local business perspective.
The survey started by asking if the respondent worked at or owned a local business given 47.5% of the private workforce is employed by a small business with less than 500 employees (according to the US Small Business Administration). Our survey had 39% of the respondents (from private and public sector) falling into this group with 12% of the total actually owning a small business, a good representative sample.
Next, we asked the most obvious question for everyone, what do we want to re-open the most? We picked the most prominent seven classes of local businesses that we frequent in our daily lives that are mostly closed as non-essential; we avoided businesses like medical, pharmacy, or grocery that are still mostly open across America. These were rank ordered by each respondent and the below graph shows a composite score based on ranking across all respondents with ‘Food and Drink’ coming in at the highest score with almost half the respondents ranking it number one. ‘Arts, Entertainment, and Culture’ was a clear second with over 200 people ranking it first or second. ‘Shopping and Retail’ was the third highest with the most second and third place votes across all categories.
The main goal of the survey was to better understand consumer preferences for local vs. national retailers both during and after unprecedented crisis. The below table shows the respondents propensity to shop local before vs. during the pandemic. Of note is that people who tend to spend more than 50% at local businesses have stayed mostly the same during the COVID-19 pandemic, so highly loyal local shoppers tend to stay loyal even during this crisis.
However, people who purchased less than 25% locally before the pandemic jumped up 15% during, and those who purchased 25-50% locally before dropped roughly 15% during, meaning that the pandemic has caused roughly 15% of the respondents to spend anywhere from 50-100% less on local than before this all started. COVID-19 is hitting the local business economy hard.
Next, we asked whether the situation made them more likely to buy and support local business. 53% said yes, 35% would keep the same mix as before, and only 12% said they would be less likely to buy from local which is in line with the roughly 15% number drop we saw in the previous question. This means the majority of respondents understand the impact on local businesses and want to do something to help.
Of the 53% who responded yes to being more likely to buy local during shelter-in-place, we then asked them if they planned to continue to do so on the other side. An overwhelming majority said yes at 68% with 30% more claiming they would spread their spend equally across local and national businesses. This is great news for local businesses! Once we get through this crisis, customers will come back stronger (68%) or equally loyal (30%).
Of the respondents above who answered they would continue to at least in part shop locally, we then asked them why they would. The two clear front-runner reasons were to support the local community (84%) and economy (54%) – a preponderance of positive sentiment for “local” vs. convenience, price, or products!
Of the respondents that answered previously with a preference for national over local, we then focused on understanding the reasons behind preferring national retailers. Unlike the previous question, that had a strong bias toward one preference: the national shoppers had a more even spread of reasons with convenience and variety, leading the others by roughly 10%. It should also be noted that 37% of them picked national simply because local was closed.
In the last set of questions, we asked all respondents how they typically learn about local businesses and what these businesses could be doing to get more patronage from them as consumers. On the advertising and media front, we saw a very clear lead for social media presence and awareness from 66% of the respondents, followed by 37% from online advertising. These numbers are not surprising given how much time we are all spending on computers and mobile devices while sheltering-in-place.
We concluded by asking what local retailers could do to drive more business in these challenging times and answers supporting the shelter-in-place security of free delivery (57%) and contactless pickup (56%) were the clear leaders. Discounts came in a close third at 52% of respondents.
Finally, we wanted to better understand how U.S. consumers felt about the various efforts we have seen local businesses employing to support the first responders and other essential service providers such as feeding them, housing them, or providing economic support through a percentage of sales. A resounding majority, 53%, were more likely to buy from a local business that was doing extra to support the local community, 31% favorably influenced by such activities. A clear message to local businesses that doing good and engaging with your community in supportive ways will result in increased sales now and down the road.
Local businesses and the consumers that rely on them have been hit hard by this pandemic, but the good news is that consumers are actively trying to support them in the darkest days of lock down as well as looking forward to their re-opening. More than half of consumers ranked restaurants & nightlife as number one for re-opening followed closely by arts & entertainment and shopping & retail. Highly loyal local customers have stayed loyal during the pandemic, but it has caused roughly 15% of the less loyal ones to drop spend anywhere from 50-100% during the pandemic. Throughout the survey the majority of respondents were very loyal to local in an effort to support their local community and economy.
Recommendations for local businesses from consumers were to be active on social and digital advertising. There was also strong sentiment for free delivery and contactless pickup. Finally, 84% of respondents were favorably influenced by local businesses that went the extra mile to support the greater community that is working hard to keep essential services running during this pandemic. Local business and communities are definitely being impacted in very negative ways but this survey shows there are many reasons for hope now and in the future.
ZypMedia is the programmatic platform for local media connecting streaming TV advertisers with their audiences across all screens with a reach of over 90M households and 620M unique devices. The ZypMedia demand-side platform was purpose-built to address the unique requirements and complexities of local advertising with an emphasis on premium OTT content and applications. ZypMedia is a privately held, venture-backed technology company headquartered in San Francisco whose customers include Sinclair Broadcast Group, Nexstar Media Group, iHeartMedia, CBS Local, and Univision.
For more information on this study please contact us: firstname.lastname@example.org
THE FINE PRINT
Conducted on Survey Monkey May 7-8, 2020