Consumers today zigzag between devices, platforms and locations to discover products and services and to make purchase decisions. They search everywhere – at home, at work and on-the-go – to find what they need and want. Although this customer journey is very complex, it doesn’t have to remain a mystery for local businesses. The key is to understand why consumers stop zigzagging to purchase from one business over another.

In order to answer the question of why they buy, it is first important to understand the different types of information consumers value in making their buying decisions. Primary information consists of the critical basics like price, the availability of the product or service and business location. Secondary information provides more context around the business and its offerings by satisfying additional questions or needs consumers may have. It includes testimonials, reviews, offers, photos or videos and is typically obtained later in the search process.

More Than the Basics

According to The Why Before the Buy℠ – a survey of more than 5,400 consumers conducted by YP (formerly, in collaboration with Thrive Analytics and the Local Search Association – consumers rely almost equally on primary and secondary information – 52 percent and 48 percent respectively. And consumers who said their decision was based mostly on secondary information spend, on average, twice as much as those relying on primary information. Not only do businesses need to provide basic information about a product or service, they also need to make available the secondary information that many consumers weigh in making buying decisions. In many cases, it’s this secondary information that tips the scales in favor of one business over another.

Get It Right

Consumers have a lot of options, and many of the reasons they cite for selecting a business are linked to the business’s online presence – something that a business owner can control by addressing incorrect or inconsistent information, encouraging customers to write reviews or sharing video or photo content. Consumers won’t even consider a business with a poor online presence. Inconsistent information across the internet, inaccurate website content and wrong contact information frustrate consumers and send them to the competition. Businesses without a website, pictures, or ratings/reviews also miss out on would-be customers. So, just as there are key factors consumers consider before making a purchase, there are also factors that influence a consumer’s decision to not consider a business.

Mobile Matters

Mobile devices also play a critical role in the customer’s journey. We live in an always-connected, always- on world, and businesses that aren’t reaching these on-the-go consumers are losing opportunities to connect with their audience. Nowadays, consumers are device hopping, with their smartphones playing a role at some point during the search process. According to The Why Before the Buy research, aside from convenience and speed, consumers rely on mobile devices to conduct ‘near me’ searches and to take advantage of the phone’s ‘click-to-call’ feature. Smartphones are not only ideal for local search, they’ve also revolutionized how and where consumers shop.

The answer to the question of “why do consumers choose one business over another” is far from simple. But what is clear is that, in a digital world, online presence not only matters, it’s essential to any business’s success.