When stay-at-home orders were put into place at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, American consumers turned to large ecommerce sites and big-box retailers to meet their ongoing needs. Pandemic shopping habits significantly impacted small businesses in 2020 and beyond. As small businesses closed across the country, shoppers rallied to shop locally and support their communities.
As we enter 2022, many wonder how American shopping habits changed since the height of the pandemic. Are big-box stores continuing to dominate the retail landscape? Do people think it’s important to shop small? Will shoppers return to brick-and-mortar locations?
In answer to these questions and more, weBoost surveyed 1,000 Americans about their current shopping habits and attitudes when it comes to supporting local businesses. For the purpose of this survey, “small business” refers to a local brand or shop that exists only in very few select locations and is not affiliated with a large, well-known chain.
Here’s a look at our survey results.
What Do American Consumers Think About Shopping Small?
Small businesses are essential to a healthy economy. They create jobs, foster entrepreneurship, and keep money in the local community. In our recent survey, we found that Americans recognize the value of local businesses and are mindful about supporting them.
- Nearly 73% of respondents shop small or local at least once a month.
- More than 70% of respondents are willing to pay more for a product or service if it supports a small business.
Overwhelmingly, consumers make concerted efforts to shop small – even when it comes at a higher price tag.
Small Businesses vs. Big-Box Stores
Big-box stores and large ecommerce sites support huge inventories and seem to carry everything a person could possibly need. If big-box stores have the convenience of everything in one place, what motivates shoppers to look past large retailers and shop small? Our survey results reveal the top factors that affect where Americans choose to shop.
Top 3 Reasons People Shop Small
- Keeping money local. Americans shop small to support their local economy.
- Better customer service. Shoppers tend to enjoy more personalized experiences when interacting with small businesses.
- Relationship with the business owner. Consumers go out of their way to support people they know.
Top 3 Reasons People Shop Big-Box
- Product availability. Large retailers tend to have large inventories, which can make shopping more convenient.
- Greater product diversity. Shoppers like being able to get everything they need from one location.
- Product affordability. Big-box stores are able to provide certain products for less.
Taken all together, shopping at big-box stores is a matter of convenience. Consumers can go to one store to get every product on their list at an affordable price. However, shopping at small, local businesses is all about community and relationships. Shoppers benefit from personalized service and feel good about where they spend their dollars.
Consumers Return to Small Business Shopping
We know many shoppers opted for the convenience of big-box stores at the height of the pandemic. As we enter a post-pandemic world, have shopping habits and attitudes changed?
Fortunately, our survey results point to yes—consumers are gravitating away from big-box stores in favor of small businesses.
- A year ago, 26.5% of shoppers went to big-box stores.
- Today, 19% of shoppers consistently buy from big-box stores.
Here, we see that the amount of shoppers buying from big-box retailers has decreased significantly in the past year. More shoppers are able to support local businesses today than they were at the height of the pandemic.
Americans Like to Stay Connected While Shopping
With more Americans shopping locally, how can businesses support a better in-store shopping experience? We found that connectivity is important to consumers. Survey results show:
- Over 40% of respondents believe that strong cell signal is important to have while shopping in-store.
- Over 37% of respondents use their phone to make in-store payments at least some of the time.
From digital coupons to contactless payments, cellular connectivity makes shopping in-store more convenient.
How Americans Use Their Phones While Shopping
People like to have their phones connected and in-hand in most settings, and retail locations are no exception. Shoppers reach for their phones for a variety of reasons.
Our survey results provide a breakdown of how modern shoppers use their devices in-store:
- 32% of respondents text friends and family.
- 19% of respondents look up product reviews
- 16% of respondents search for digital coupons
- 13% of respondents take pictures of products
- 11% of respondents compare prices between stores
Shoppers want to enjoy many of the same perks they get from shopping online when they enter a physical storefront. They want to share their experience with others and have reviews at their fingertips while making purchasing decisions. Strong cellular connectivity makes this possible.
weBoost Keeps Small Businesses Connected
The pandemic radically changed day-to-day habits for people across the country. Today, we see an increasing number of shoppers moving away from big-box retailers to shop locally. As Americans shop in-store more frequently, small businesses are taking steps to better support digital shopping experiences.
weBoost cell phone signal boosters for small businesses help make this possible. Learn more about the weBoost for Business product lineup and install a lasting connectivity solution in your business.