Australian SMEs have an opportunity to capture more customers by improving the location-based information available about their company online, according to research released today by Google Australia.
Google’s study, Being Found: The importance of local search information in the path to purchase, found 75% of Australian consumers use location information such as maps when searching for a business online.
But this figures jumps to 81% for smartphone users, who are 19% more likely to use location information than desktop users (68%).
The study, which was conducted in March by Ipsos Australia, surveyed more than 2400 individuals aged between 18 and 74 who use a smartphone or desktop computer.
Maps are the most popular location-based information used by consumers, with 83% of smartphone users and 78% of desktop users accessing maps. Overall, 46% of respondents said a location map is a “must have” for a business.
‘Get Directions’ buttons are also a popular feature, with 74% of users describing the feature as extremely or very useful and 37% describing the feature as a “must have”.
Close to a third of survey respondents said they access online maps in order to make a purchase at the business they are searching, while 45% said they want to check the business’ trading hours and 22% said they are seeking to schedule an appointment or make a reservation.
But 62% of users who value location information in online search results said they don’t believe this kind of information is widely enough available, and more than a third of users (39%) said they are more likely to explore another brand or company if location information is not available for the business they are searching for.
A similar percentage of users (34%) said the lack of location information leaves them frustrated and annoyed, while 24% said they are less likely to use the company or brand in the future.
Smartphone users are more likely to explore another brand or company if a map is not available, with 45% saying they will look elsewhere. They are also more likely to feel frustrated or annoyed about the lack of information (40%) and more likely to choose not to use that brand or company in the future (27%).
Search engine optimisation expert Jim Stewart told SmartCompany having location information available is “incredibly important” for any small business with a shopfront, especially when it comes to capturing customers who use mobile devices.
However, Stewart says some businesses that are part of larger companies can find it difficult to provide this information as they do not necessarily have “a lot of control over their own website”.
“Some big franchises are dragging their feet,” says Stewart.
“We see this a lot with car dealerships.”
Stewart says providing location-based information involves structuring location data on your business website correctly as well as ensuring your Google My Business profile is updated correctly.
“These two things together are really important,” he says.
But Stewart admits this process can be “quite a complex exercise” for businesses to undertake, adding that there have been significant changes to the platforms involved over the past eight months.