COVID spurs community engagement—consumers now want to support local economy

by | Jun 15, 2020 | Covid-19, Public Relations

The movement towards locally produced goods is nothing new, but the level of engagement with local economies during the COVID crisis demonstrates a notable consumer shift in loyalty towards community businesses. Even amidst the global pandemic, new research reveals consumers are going out of their way to support their communities by purchasing from locally owned businesses instead of national retailers.

According to a new survey of U.S. consumers by local media-focused programmatic TV platform ZypMedia, more than half (53 percent) of consumers indicated that they are more likely to buy from a local business instead of a national retailer during the COVID-19 crisis.

In fact, of those consumers who are more likely to buy locally during the crisis, 68 percent of them stated they will continue to make purchases at local businesses post-pandemic.

COVID spurs community engagement—consumers now want to support local economy

Community is a driving force among consumers

When asked why supporting local businesses is so important, there were two clear leading reasons—supporting their local community (84 percent) and local economy (54 percent).

“Local businesses are the engine of our economy and it’s reassuring to see that Americans aren’t abandoning them during these uncertain times,” said Aman Sareen, CEO of ZypMedia, in a news release. “How businesses market to their customers is more critical than ever as consumers believe in remaining loyal to their local businesses, while at the same time being conscious of their current economic and social distancing situations.”

COVID spurs community engagement—consumers now want to support local economy

Loyal customers remain loyal

Due to small business closures during COVID-19, consumers have slightly lessened their reliance on these types of merchants. The survey compared how consumers’ percentage of purchases made at local retailers vs. national outlets changed before the pandemic.

Highly loyal local shoppers tend to stay loyal even during this crisis. Consumers who tend to spend more than 50 percent at local businesses have stayed mostly the same during the pandemic.

COVID spurs community engagement—consumers now want to support local economy

Additionally, those who spent less than 25 percent locally have increased by 15 percent during the pandemic. Whereas those consumers who made 25-50 percent of their purchases locally, decreased shopping at local stores by 15 percent during the outbreak. Net being 15 percent of respondents who used to allocate 25-50 percent of their spend locally have decreased their spend to less than 25 percent.

What types of incentives make consumers shop local? They might surprise you

When asked what local retailers could do to drive more business in these challenging times, price wasn’t top of mind. In fact, consumers felt that businesses that supported the shelter-in-place, security of free delivery (57 percent) and contactless delivery / curbside pickup (56 percent) were the clear leaders.

When asked why consumers shop at national retailers, responses were spread across the board with convenience (52 percent) and variety (49 percent) as the top reasons followed by prices, and exact brand/product at 39 percent and 35 percent, respectively. Additionally, 37 percent of respondents selected national outlets simply because local businesses are closed.

COVID spurs community engagement—consumers now want to support local economy

“Consumers are definitely skewing towards safety and convenience during this time,” added Sareen. “These are important messages for businesses to use in their marketing as they continue to engage with consumers to best address their concerns now, as well their pandemic-altered purchasing behaviors in the future.”

Lastly, local businesses are utilizing digital strategies to connect with consumers across a variety of channels. As consumers are sheltering in place and have been increasing their content consumption on mobile devices and computers, businesses have been reaching consumers on social media (66 percent) and through online advertising (37 percent). Local businesses have also been using traditional media including radio (27 percent), TV advertising (26 percent) and out-of-home/newspaper (25 percent) as an avenue to engage with consumers.

COVID spurs community engagement—consumers now want to support local economy

Read the full report here.

ZypMedia surveyed 559 consumers in the U.S. ranging from 18 to 65 years old. The survey was conducted during May 2020 via SurveyMonkey.

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Richard Carufel
Richard Carufel is editor of Bulldog Reporter and the Daily ’Dog, one of the web’s leading sources of PR and marketing communications news and opinions. He has been reporting on the PR and communications industry for over 12 years, and has interviewed hundreds of journalists and PR industry leaders. Reach him at richardc@bulldogreporter.com; @BulldogReporter

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