Podium Survey Reveals 6 Surprising Reasons Customers Don’t Return To Local Retailers

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Published July 1, 2018. Updated September 19, 2022.

Ever written an email or text to a retail business and didn’t get an answer within a day?

Ever walked into a local business’ restroom and found it filthy?

Podium, a software company that helps businesses gain insights into their customers’ experiences, reported the results of a recent survey of 2,000 U.S. consumers between the ages of 18-64.

The survey sought to discover why consumers do not return to local businesses. They found if a business were guilty of even one of the following, respondents would likely never go there again.

Here are the top six deal-killers:

  • 79% said if an employee lied to them about a product or service.
  • 70% said if an employee used foul language or was rude.
  • 46% said if the retail store had dirty restrooms.
  • 37% said if they left a message, and the retailer didn’t respond within a day.
  • 30% said if they emailed, and the business didn’t respond within a day.
  • 22% said if they texted, and the store didn’t respond within a day.

In fact, one in five respondents expected a local business to respond within five minutes, or they would move on to another business.

Surprised so far?

And if you’re courting Millennial shoppers, know they have the highest communication expectations:

  • They were twice as likely to be more loyal to a business that offered social media communication for their customers.
  • They were nearly twice as likely to be more loyal to a business that offered SMS texting for their customers.

That means Millennials expect every store owner and manager to have their store’s Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram apps on their smartphones and set to immediate notifications. And they must pay attention and respond to them quickly…very quickly.

It also means the store phone should be able to text both ways.

What else do customers want from their local businesses?

Nearly half of respondents want their local businesses to know them by name. That’s a level of familiarity most retailers would find daunting. Knowing a customer’s name takes more than just asking for a name at the counter. You will have to do more to engage their heart.

You have to train your employees to bond with each shopper, so they want to give you their name in the first place. And this level of customer service will require you to train your employees to look for clues to remember their names, not just that they are a "regular".   

This survey proves there are few things more powerful than hearing our own name. It says I appreciate you.

On top of that, a real shocker is that about a third want to get offers by mail. Yes, you got it…by snail mail.

The good news is those who shop locally want more engagement from their local businesses.

Here are the top five factors that would positively influence respondents to be more loyal to a local business:

  • 67% want the business to make it more convenient to be a repeat customer.
  • 60% want to be able to connect directly with a customer representative.
  • 47% want the local business to know their name.
  • 33% want to be able to chat online with a customer representative.
  • 28% still want to be reminded about special offers via mail.

And here is a reality check for local businesses…while respondents ranked phone calls high when it comes to creating loyalty… 84% admit they don’t answer calls from unknown numbers.

Then how do we combat this pet peeve of shoppers?

I suggest training your employees after they’ve bonded and closed the sale to snap a picture of an item they were looking at but didn’t buy that day. Then get their number and text the picture to them while they’re at the counter. That way, the customer has your number in their smartphone’s database.

Here’s the thing, none of this works if you do not have a solid retail sales strategy for exactly how you will engage a stranger, how you will build rapport, and how you will close that customer. Until that happens, you’ll probably take shoppers for granted without dealing with the issues that keep them from returning to your local business.

See also, Retail Shoppers' 50 Pet Peeves About Retail Employees

In Sum

I was surprised by these reasons shoppers don’t return to local retailers, and I’m thinking you were too. 

But if you’re trying to compete with Amazon – and who isn’t – use this list of pet peeves from shoppers as another guide in upgrading your customer service.