As the nationwide response to the COVID-19 pandemic caused local businesses that could remain open to quickly adopt new ways of serving customers — like more convenient communications, curbside pickups, local delivery and contactless payments — their customers began to like and expect the new service options. New research from Lehi-based customer interaction management software company Podium shows that the overwhelming majority of Americans have both used these services (84 percent) and expect local businesses to continue offering them (86 percent) as the pandemic winds down.

“While previously just a nice way to do business, offering options like contactless payments, texting and curbside pickup have become the only way for local businesses to operate,” said Eric Rea, co-founder and CEO at Podium. “There has been steady movement towards digital transformation among local businesses in recent years, which was exponentially accelerated over the past few months. Consumers have become accustomed to the new forms of communications and services, and there’s no going back.”

To determine how much consumer priorities have shifted due to COVID-19, respondents were asked to consider their top three factors in choosing a local business before the outbreak, and then identify their top three now. Prioritizing businesses that offer pick up, curbside or contactless services jumped from 13 percent to 49 percent. 

Consumers who appreciate well-communicated safety practices jumped from 14 percent to 44 percent.

Meanwhile, the new services have eclipsed price in the minds of the survey participants. The importance of the price of offering lowered from 78 percent to 50 percent. The lower importance of price was most notable among seniors, falling from 78 percent to 41 percent.

Nearly three in five Americans (57 percent) said a local business’ pandemic-friendly services (including curbside pickup, local food and grocery delivery and contactless payments) led them to purchase goods or services from a local business for the first time, while 43 percent said a  failure to offer pandemic-friendly services led them to seek out and work with or purchase from a competitor or discontinue patronage altogether.

And Americans would like local businesses to continue offering pandemic-friendly solutions after COVID-19 restrictions lift, with 80 percent continuing to seek curbside pickup options, 79 percent looking for grocery delivery options and 78 percent appreciating contactless payment options.

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