The internet is made of trillions of facts. And for many consumers, it’s the first port of call when it comes to finding an answer to something – whether it’s the opening times of the closest pharmacy, or the calories in a meal. But how often are they getting the correct answer?
Worryingly, marketers believe that only 35% of the information about their brands online is accurate. But as consumers increasingly lean on the information they get from search to make their purchase decisions, misinformation is leading to a decline in trust.
For many, the consumer journey starts on a search engine, typically leading with specific questions about a topic or product. It’s crucial, then, that a brand is the source of truth on its own products and structures its data in a way which makes it easily discoverable – or risk false or incorrect information informing consumer opinions, particularly when the impact of incorrect information online is felt strongest by local businesses and branches.
The Impact of Local Misinformation
The cost to businesses of consumers encountering misinformation online cannot be underestimated. With difficult market conditions causing retailers to struggle up and down the UK, especially those that depend on multiple branches or a high-street presence, it’s clear that it’s never been more important that the information consumers find online is accurate.
With footfall and sales down, it’s no longer enough to assume that the store or brand experience alone can drive customers in-store. Modern consumers often begin their journey online and having the correct information, whether that’s stock availability, answers to FAQs, hours of operation or even an address or phone number, is crucial to ensuring that a simple online search translates into an in-store experience, and ultimately a sale.
What’s more, recent data has shown that consumers are becoming more open to trying new experiences outside of the traditional high street. Increasingly, consumers are asking questions online about the best places to shop in and visit, which is having a direct impact on footfall on the UK high street, with niche locations proving more popular than town center shopping. As such, ensuring that these smaller brands have control of their data online is crucial to taking advantage of the changing habits of customers in local communities.
Delivering Answers to the Community
On a local level, misinformation is having a huge impact. Neighborhoods rely on their local shops as a cornerstone of a community, providing goods to households, social connections and friendly places to meet up. As such, ensuring that these stores are maintaining an accurate and useful bank of information online is critical.
Many communities now maintain pages on Facebook and Nextdoor where they share information about their local shops, such as operating hours, holiday closures products, services, accessibility and payment options. It’s therefore crucial that stores remain in control of their online presence and data across multiple publishers, including maps, social sites, and voice agents, or else risk misinformed individuals sharing incorrect information about themselves.
In order to maintain control of local data, businesses must work with a trusted technology to help understand the kinds of information that local customers are asking about, and then work to ensure that their web pages and business listings address these questions in a timely and useful manner. If someone fail to find out a restaurant delivers, what time they open or details on menu items, they risk losing their customer. Huge Marketing budgets spent on brand building are for nothing if at the moment of highest intent, when someone makes a local search for your products or services, you just don’t show up!
A New Information Age
As businesses head into 2020, and a new decade in the information age, it’s time to more effectively manage information online to ensure that brands make themselves as available through a digital presence, as their physical presence. Consumers now want information and answers in real-time, and shops need to make sure they are ready to deliver these answers on their websites and on all the major platforms like Google, Mapping apps, Social sites, and Voice search.
The customer today is fickle and wants answers quickly. The failure of brands to adapt to this fast-changing consumer search behavior leads to increasing customer frustration, and if unresolved, customers will just take their business elsewhere.