Key Findings

  • 43% of consumers always search a brick-and-mortar business online before visiting for the first time; 48% sometimes do
  • 23% of consumers who research businesses online are somewhat or very unlikely to visit a business that doesn’t have an online presence
  • 3 in 4 shoppers who search businesses online are hunting for price information
  • When searching for a brick-and-mortar business online, 68% of shoppers want to see a dedicated company website

In the Digital Age, information is power. Consumers want to learn as much as possible about a business before spending their time or money, especially if it’s a company they haven’t patronized before.

Even for brick-and-mortar businesses, if customers can’t find the information they seek online, it may decrease the chance they’ll visit.

That’s according to a Digital.com survey of 1,250 U.S. shoppers, conducted in October 2021, about shopping habits.

9 in 10 shoppers search new brick-and-mortar businesses online

Before visiting a brick-and-mortar business in person for the first time, 91% of shoppers will look up the business online.

Forty-three percent of consumers always search online for a brick-and-mortar business before their first visit, while 48% sometimes conduct online research before their first visit.

For 35% of these consumers, it’s most important to look up a new business online when researching a recommendation. Twenty-eight percent think it’s most important to do online research about businesses when traveling in an unfamiliar location, while 19% are most likely to do online reconnaissance when a business is far away.

Lack of online presence decreases likelihood of visiting business for 23% of shoppers

Twenty-three percent of consumers who search for new brick-and-mortar businesses online are somewhat or very unlikely to visit said business if it doesn’t have an online presence. For this survey, online presence is defined as a dedicated website, social media accounts, or search engine business listing.

The top reason why these shoppers are unlikely to visit a business in-person if they can’t find information about it online is that they’re unsure whether the business will have what they need (47%).

Meanwhile, 28% of shoppers in this group are unlikely to visit a business without an online presence because they question its legitimacy. Another 21% don’t want to risk the business being closed when they visit.

Shoppers primarily seeking price, product information online

Regardless of how a business’s online presence affects their shopping decisions, the main thing consumers are seeking when they search for a brick-and-mortar business online is price information.

Seventy-six percent of consumers are looking up businesses online to view prices. Fifty-eight percent also want to check the business’s offerings, including inventory, menus, or services. Fifty-seven percent want to verify the business’s hours of operation, and 54% are hunting for coupons or discounts.

Nearly 7 in 10 shoppers want to see a dedicated website for a business

When searching online for a brick-and-mortar store, 68% of consumers are looking for a website dedicated specifically to the business about which they want to learn more.

Fifty-one percent of shoppers look for independent review sites like Yelp, while a similar percentage, 49%, want to see a search engine business listing.

Despite the fact that many businesses may feel as though social media, such as a Facebook page, is a sufficient online presence, only 44% of consumers who are searching for a business online are seeking their social media pages.

Importance of online presence varies by demographics

Certain factors, including age, gender, and household income, influence whether people search for a brick-and-mortar business online before visiting, and if a lack of online presence affects their decision to patronize that business in person.

Half of Gen Z, Millennial shoppers always search new businesses online

Younger, more internet-savvy shoppers are most likely to do a Google search before checking out a new business in-person.

Fifty percent of shoppers 18-34 always search online for information about a new brick-and-mortar business before visiting in person. Forty-three percent of shoppers ages 35-54 do the same.

By comparison, only 24% of shoppers 55 and older always search for a brick-and-mortar business online before a first-time visit.

Seventeen percent of Baby Boomers never search for new brick-and-mortar businesses online, compared to only 8% of shoppers 18-54.

6 in 10 young consumers unlikely to visit business they can’t find online because of questionable legitimacy

Although they’re less likely to search for businesses online, more older consumers than younger consumers will have second thoughts about visiting a business if they can’t find it online first.

Twenty-seven percent of shoppers 45 and older are unlikely to visit an unfamiliar brick-and-mortar store if they can’t find information about it online, compared to 21% of 18-44 year-olds.

Among 18-24 year-olds who are unlikely to visit businesses without an online presence, 61%, the most of any age group, say it’s because they question the business’s legitimacy. Meanwhile, 60% of shoppers 55 and older may not visit a business they can’t find online because they are unsure it will have what they need.

Younger shoppers care more about seeing policies for sustainability and diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) than older shoppers, by a rate of 24% for 18-44 year-olds versus 11% for shoppers 45 and older.

Shoppers in the 18-44 year-old range are twice as likely as shoppers 45 and older to search for a business online to make a reservation or appointment (32% compared to 17%). They are also twice as likely as older shoppers to look for social media pages in their online searches, by a rate of 50% versus 26%.

Men more likely than women to do online research before visiting a business

Fifty-five percent of men always search for a brick-and-mortar business online before visiting, compared to 33% of women. Meanwhile, 12% of women never search for brick-and-mortar businesses before visiting for the first time, compared to 6% of men.

Among women who are researching new businesses online before visiting, one-fourth are unlikely to visit the business if they’re search comes up empty, compared to 19% of men.

Men and women are both most likely seeking price information when they search for an unfamiliar brick-and-mortar business online. However, men are twice as likely as women to search for a business online to see if they have a sustainability/DEI policy (30% vs. 14%).

Men and women are also looking for similar results when they search for a brick-and-mortar business online. A dedicated business website is most important, followed by independent reviews, search engine business listing, and social media pages.

Majority of high-income shoppers always search online for businesses before visiting

Household income also appears to play a role in consumers’ online research habits. Fifty-seven percent of shoppers who earn more than $100,000 annually always search for new businesses online before making an in-person visit, compared to 38% of those who earn less than $100,000 annually.

However, 26% of those who earn less than $100,000 are unlikely to make an inaugural visit to a business if they can’t find information about it online, compared to 17% of earners making $100,000 or more per year.

Both groups are most keen on finding price information when they Google a new business, though. Seventy-five percent of shoppers with a household income under $100,000, and 77% of those earning more than $100,000 annually search online for new businesses so they can look at prices.

Methodology

All data found within this report derives from a survey commissioned by Digital.com and conducted online by survey platform Pollfish. In total, 1,250 American consumers were surveyed. This survey was conducted on October 4, 2021. All respondents were asked to answer all questions truthfully and to the best of their abilities. For full survey data, please email Julia Morrissey at [email protected]