Inaccurate or misinformation online is costing independent businesses £6.1 billion a year in lost revenue, according to data published today by the UK Domain.
Despite nearly seven in ten (67 per cent) customers-to-be checking the web when planning to visit a physical business, 61 per cent of independent businesses have inaccurate opening hours listed online, or none at all.
Businesses are often victims of misinformation online listings that search engines share for the world to see. They may have no idea that these listings are there and the information shared is often unverified by the businesses themselves, relying on crowdsourced data and potentially unreliable third-party sources.
The cost of inaccuracies
The consequences for independent businesses are huge. Almost two-thirds (63 per cent) of shoppers would never return to an independent business if they arrived to find that the business was shut and that they’d had a wasted journey, despite online information stating it was open.
The winners here are the established chains: the certainty afforded by their more established and accurate online presence lures in more customers. Three quarters 71 per cent of people polled say once their trust has been lost by an independent business, either due to inaccurate information or another factor, they are more likely to turn to established chains.
Ultimately, this costs independent high street businesses up to £6.1 billion in lost revenue every year as consumers spend elsewhere. This, coupled with the hike in business rates, where a fifth are expecting to see a rise of more than 40 per cent, makes the retail environment increasingly challenging.
As a champion of getting small businesses online, the UK Domain is encouraging all independent high street businesses to take charge of their web presence. Those with a website are more likely to win the confidence of potential customers because 69 per cent of UK consumers trust businesses that have one.
Online ‘must haves’
It’s not all about click-and-collect or buying online, the six most important things UK consumers want to be able to find at the click of a button are:
Most important pieces of information on a website
Opening hours (87 per cent)
Product information (86 per cent)
Opening days ( 85 per cent)
Address ( 81 per cent)
Contact information (78 per cent)
Business background (36 per cent)
Helen Tomes, director of marketing and service delivery at Nominet which runs the UK Domain, adds, ‘Most independent businesses are online – whether they realise it or not – but unfortunately there’s no guarantee that basic information like the address and opening hours displayed about them is correct. Inaccuracies can directly impact sales, and so just as you’d never ignore a customer who visited your shop, in a world where time-poor shoppers research online, causing them a wasted trip is tantamount to poor customer service and could alienate them in the future.
‘We’d strongly encourage businesses to review the information that exists about them on the web and to correct any errors. Creating a simple website outlining what you sell, when you’re open and where you’re based is an easy step to save yourself and your customers time and to improve opportunities for your business.’