Local Businesses: Digitally Evolve or Get Left Behind

18 Oct 2022 | Digital Marketing, Mindset

At Birdcage, we’ve spent the past 7 years working with local businesses and eCommerce businesses to build their audiences and their sales. As part of our mission to create 2,500 success stories by 2025, we conducted an Australia-wide survey to understand buyer behaviour in a range of different settings including competitive metropolitan areas and regional centres.

Whilst our research is ongoing, stage one of our survey is now complete and reveals concerning results for local businesses when it comes to keeping consumer spending within their reach.

Overall, the preference towards online purchasing continues to grow. And not only for products. Customers are increasingly opting to book and be serviced by service-based businesses through online channels. Unfortunately, an overwhelming majority of consumers believe local businesses aren’t doing enough in the digital space to earn their business.

If you’re a local product OR service-based business, there’s a lot of work to be done in the digital space, as per the results as detailed below.

91% of respondents use Google on their phones to search for products and services

Google is the world’s biggest search engine. And simply because you have a website it doesn’t mean you’ll automatically be listed on the platform. Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is the process of making your website more attractive to Google so its search bots favour your site and you show up on page one when customers search for your products or services. SEO is a long game and an ongoing one. As your competitors continue to fight to knock you off the top spot and Google makes continual changes to its algorithm, it’s essential local businesses optimise their websites month-on-month to stay on top.

→ Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is one of our most popular growth services for local businesses. 


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The majority of respondents would rather use click-and-collect or home delivery than go into a local business

Personal care, health and wellness and home decor products were selected as the most popular products to shop for online, closely followed by groceries, clothes/accessories and hobbies and sports supplies. 50% of respondents prefer to shop online and have their orders delivered with 30% preferring to purchase online and click-and-collect the order. As a local business, if you cannot offer these options you’re potentially missing out on up to 80% of customer revenue that’s going to the businesses that do.

→ Adding a click-and-collect option to your website is a quick and easy way to encourage more local business and is an option to consider even if you operate from home

As clients, 80% would rather be serviced at home or at work (via video meetings) than travel to a local business to meet in person

This result might surprise many, but it seems COVID’s social distancing and stay-at-home orders have shown many customers the ease of video meetings. At Birdcage, we’ve opted for video meetings over face-to-face appointments since we started 7 years ago as a cost and time-saving measure. So we’re pleased to see the majority of respondents discovering what we’ve long known. Video meetings also allow for session recording for record keeping and easy share of slide decks and documents for digital markup

→ As a local service business, we challenge you to consider how you can offer digital meetings over face-to-face appointments to optimise the client experience.


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Most locals would rather talk through web chat or social media messaging

This statistic might surprise you, after all, text chat takes more time than simply picking up the phone and calling. However, whilst a phone call requires the full attention of your customer, using a chat function means your customers can communicate with you when they’re at work, around noisy kids or in the middle of something else. Whilst 70% of respondents over the age of 55 still prefer phone calls, 30% of this age group and 74% of respondents under this age group prefer to communicate with businesses via web chat, social media messaging or text messages.

→ Adding a Facebook messenger chat feature to your website means you only have to monitor one chat channel for both website and social media.

81% of locals would rather book appointments online than over the phone for a local business

Further to the previous result, the majority of respondents surveyed preferred the ease and flexibility of a self-service online booking platform to book appointments. From a marketing agency’s perspective, we love that businesses can accept bookings and therefore make sales 24/7 through their website. Not only during work hours when a receptionist is available to take calls.

→ Integrating an online booking system into your website is easier than you think and includes a number of features including instant payments, custom appointment types and calender rules

Your digital presence will affect your local business revenue

When asked “what will stop you from buying from a business”, the top reason listed was “If they don’t have / I don’t like their website”. This was followed by “If they don’t have any reviews or have negative reviews”. Followed by “If they don’t have / I don’t like their social media profiles”. What’s even more alarming, is that 100% of respondents believe local businesses aren’t keeping up with digital trends. At Birdcage, we already understand how important an integrated, strategic online presence is but these results should jolt local businesses into digital action.

→ At Birdcage, we handle all aspects of your digital marketing funnel. From branding, to website, to social media, paid ads and email. It’s this full-service, integrated approach that gives our clients an unfair advantage


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Branding & Website Design by Birdcage


The biggest problem facing local businesses: traditional marketing agencies

As local business and eCommerce brand specialists, we see a stark difference in how both types of businesses are leveraging digital trends. eCommerce brands are far ahead of the curve, adopting even experimental digital marketing techniques to gain a competitive edge.

Local businesses, on the other hand, are severely lagging in their digital marketing. And most local agencies are adding fuel to this problem. With many local business-focused agencies relying on traditional marketing tactics, local businesses are being fed outdated advice by the people who they look to the most. As marketers, we believe it’s OUR job to evolve our own skills and knowledge in order to provide the right advice to our clients. Which is why, at Birdcage, we undertake initiatives like this research project to ensure our clients have an unfair advantage in their marketplace.

Whilst outdoor signage, print and radio ads and printed collateral still has their place, this survey clearly shows why local businesses that don’t adopt digital channels are at a severe disadvantage.

What should local businesses do?

The upside? The local businesses who DO choose to evolve can see strong results – and quickly – as long as they act before their competitors do.

As a local business you should, at the very minimum, be able to answer “YES” to all of these questions:

  1. Do you have a website that is search engine and conversion rate optimised, mobile responsive and follows user experience design principles from 2022 (not 2020, even)?
  2. Does your website feature high-quality, branded photography (not stock imagery)?
  3. Do you know how to and are you using social media platforms strategically and tailored to your customer base?
  4. Are you sending at least one marketing email per month to your email list?
  5. Are you using the power of Meta, Google and/or Pinterest Ads based on the goals you’re trying to achieve?
  6. Are you working (ongoing) with a digital marketing agency or consultant who is constantly training and updating their knowledge to stay on-top of digital marketing changes?

Why Birdcage should be your first choice for local business marketing

As one of Australia’s most progressive digital marketing agencies, we’ve spent the last seven years creating digital success stories in Australia, the US, and Canada’s competitive capital city and eCommerce markets.

And now we’re using our powers of persuasion for good to get local businesses back on track.

If you’d like to start the process of working together, book your free discovery call today. Please note, we accept only a limited number of clients per month to ensure quality results and workload management.

About the Author

<a href="https://birdcagemarketing.com.au/author/birdcage/" target="_self">Maddy Avery</a>

Maddy Avery

As her role as Founder & CEO at Birdcage, Maddy spends her days meeting with new clients, cooking up big new plans and supporting her team to deliver world-class marketing campaigns for their clients. With dreams almost too big for reality, Maddy keeps Birdcage and its clients pushing boundaries to achieve things many never thought possible.