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Overcoming False Information: The Role Local Businesses Play in Building Trust with Consumers

Consumers love supporting local businesses. They are convenient, seen as trustworthy, offer personalized service, and have knowledgeable staff. Small businesses are also the backbone of our economy just as much as they are the heart and soul of our local communities. It should really come as no surprise why we're so drawn to doing business with them.

At YP, our focus is to connect local businesses with the right local consumers who are actively searching for the products and services your business offers. Given today's always-on, always-connected digital culture, there are more ways than ever to enable and foster these important connections — and make them long-lasting.

Today, pretty much everything in the online and offline worlds is just a search away. But search results are not always as straightforward as they seem to be. While it may be widely perceived that the top results are the most relevant or credible, the unfortunate reality is that click-baiting and keyword-stuffing tactics have forced us to challenge this assumption. As consumers sift through search results, the question for them now becomes: what's real vs. what's fake?

Local businesses have to be smarter than the imposters out there. Building a strong online presence that integrates seamlessly with your offline marketing strategy is the best way to ensure your business always stands out. Your business is the real-deal; don't let anyone steal that from you.

The Trouble with Misinformation

There's a lot of fake information floating about the web. It's created an environment where consumers now have started to question the validity of search results — as well as pretty much every bit of information that lives beyond the search results page. From fake listings to fake reviews to fake ads, imposters have devised a sophisticated way to scam the local commerce ecosystem. This hurts local businesses just as much as it hurts consumers.

There has been a recent surge in misleading and outright false information across the web. It seems to be all we hear about on the news right now — and it's made all of us wonder who's really telling us the truth. So, to combat this phenomenon, Google and Facebook announced plans to crack down on fake news sites, doing whatever they can to take revenue streams away from sites that disseminate falsified, exaggerated, or entirely incorrect information. Unfortunately, the damage has already been done. Now consumers don't believe a lot of what they see and hear in the media.

There's a ray of light in all of this. A whopping 92 percent of consumers still rely heavily on customer reviews to help them in their purchase journey. What this tells us is that the value of word of mouth is still very much relevant and respected. However, the only downside here is that we've seen a growing number of fake reviews pop up everywhere — instances where businesses have paid people to generate positive reviews to help pad their online ratings. What's happened as a result is a serious decline in consumer trust and confidence.

The good news: local businesses can overcome this. It just requires a little work.

What Consumers Need from Your Business

The first step towards making your business stand out is understanding exactly what consumers are looking for when they search for the products and services you offer. This comes down to nailing your online presence. From your business profiles to your website to your social media channels — and beyond — the information you provide about your business should not only help move consumers along their purchase journey, but also work hard to establish your business as convenient, credible, high-quality, and trustworthy. This kind of authenticity can't be bought.

To get started, make sure all the information in your business profiles is consistent, accurate, and up-to-date at all times. If you don't know where your business lives across the web, be sure to do a presence scan. Why is this so important? According to "The Why Before the Buy" research study:

  • 37 percent of consumers will not consider a business with inaccurate business listings.
  • 32 percent of consumers will not consider a business with wrong contact information.
  • 37 percent of consumers will not consider a business with inconsistent information from one business profile to another.

The message is clear: the consistency and accuracy of a business's total online presence is a key driver for establishing consumer confidence and trust. Our research showed that even something as simple as inaccurately listed business hours can create skepticism among consumers, so much that it could be the make or break that has a consumer choosing one business over another. Another good way to build this confidence with consumers is to ensure your business profiles are listed on trusted sites, especially those accredited by reputable organizations like the Better Business Bureau.​​

Building Trust With Local Consumers

Consumers love supporting their local communities and are typically big advocates for the long-term success of their go-to local business establishments. That's why it's so important for local business owners to make their online presence a priority. The more effort you put into painting a clear picture of your business for consumers upfront, the more time you can spend building and nurturing those relationships with them.

Remember, the way you present yourself to potential customers goes way beyond location, business hours, and contact information. Those bits of information are table stakes and, as mentioned above, must absolutely be consistent and accurate across all your online business profiles, including your business website.

But once you have all that information in place, you can get creative. Post images of your storefront, your displays, your products, and your happy customers. Create videos that not only put a spotlight on the products and services you offer, but also introduce consumers to the people behind your business. These high touch elements make your business feel a lot more relatable — and that goes a long way in engaging consumers and building their trust. Our research even showed that many consumers, especially more easily distracted millennials, believe visual content can make a big impact on their purchase decisions. Whatever you produce doesn't have to be expensive or professional; it just needs to be authentic. That's what local consumers want to see.

Additionally, word of mouth promotion is still one of the best ways local businesses can spread the word about the products and services they offer. So, knowing this, and keeping in mind how much attention people give to customer reviews, don't be afraid to ask your satisfied customers to put in a good word for you business. A happy customer will more often than not be glad to support your business. However, there will be times when you just can't make everyone happy and, inevitably, a negative review may pop up. This is your time to shine. Every negative review is an opportunity to build trust with a customer. Just don't be caught off-guard — a tool like ypPresence Plus can help you monitor online reviews, keep tabs on social mentions, and update business information across dozens of sites from one, simple dashboard.

Lastly, with all this talk about online presence, it's important to remember that both your online and offline marketing efforts need to be in sync. It's all about creating a single, unified experience across every touch point for your consumers. Doing so will build credibility for your business while also keeping your business top of mind as consumers "zigzag" along their purchase journeys.

Final Thought

There's a lot of "fake" out there, but your business does not ever need to be caught up in that mess. Creating connections between your business and local consumers is a process of building trust, credibility, and loyalty. By taking the necessary steps to maintain a consistent and accurate online (and offline) presence, your business will stand out from the crowd.   Photo Credit: Adobe Stock (standard license)

Stu leads YP's product and marketing efforts, including marketing strategy, product development and management, branding, acquisition and retention marketing and corporate communications. Follow him on LinkedIn and Twitter.

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