[Infographic] How the Pandemic Is Affecting Main Street Businesses

Businesses and consumers alike have had to make a lot of adjustments this year. As consumers have prioritized online, contactless interactions, businesses of all sizes have had to evolve to accommodate both consumer behavior and COVID-19 guidelines.

Main Street businesses like restaurants, hair salons, and small local stores have found themselves in an unexpected position. While their business may have a prominent physical location, their continued success now largely depends on their ability to serve customers over the phone and online. 

Consumers are calling and checking online to learn whether businesses are even open or how the process has changed due to COVID-19. They’re scheduling takeout, making appointments, and placing orders without ever setting foot in the business. Over the last few months, many of these businesses have turned to call answering services like Numa to make sure every customer gets served.

This infographic pulls together 10 statistics that show how consumer behavior is changing and how Main Street businesses are meeting (or working to meet) these new expectations.

Numa Infographic 2020

Remote customer interactions have increased 450% since COVID-19

Between stay-at-home guidelines and public safety concerns, consumers are turning to businesses’ websites, phones, and social media accounts to get basic information and utilize services. Our database has seen a 450% increase in total remote customer interactions, including call volume, text messaging, online chat, and Facebook messages.

Since many businesses have had to close or drastically alter their operations, customers can’t assume a Main Street business is open or that the service they want is still available as usual. It’s also possible that consumers are less trusting of the hours and services they see listed online, as small Main Street businesses can’t always give their websites the same time and attention as larger companies.

This increased call and message volume has obviously put a lot of strain on businesses. Receptionists are being bombarded with far more calls and messages than usual. And businesses that didn’t already have a receptionist or call answering service are struggling to balance serving customers in person and responding to communications through other channels. 

Businesses are missing 132% more calls

As a result of the increased call volume, Main Street businesses are missing more than twice as many calls as usual. Before COVID-19, many businesses considered answering the phone a responsibility they could tack on to their employees’ other duties. But that’s not very scalable, and the increase in missed calls is showing that.

When you have one primary business phone, every time an employee answers the phone, it ties up the communication channel. Without an automated phone answering system, businesses have to hope these customers are willing to wait on hold or else call back.

Missed calls means missed business. And every call is crucial right now. Consumers are more reliant on service over-the-phone, and in some cases that’s the only way they can make a purchase or schedule a service.

93% of consumers trust text messaging

According to CTIA’s 2016 National Tracking Poll, 93% of consumers “believe wireless messaging is a trusted communications environment.” For Main Street businesses, this level of consumer confidence should signal that text messaging is a viable communication channel. This is a mode of communication consumers are accustomed to using in their day-to-day lives. It’s not new. It’s normal.

In local business applications, consumers can see the phone number they’re communicating with and save businesses in their contacts, so they can trust that they’re messaging the right place.

9 out of 10 consumers want to text businesses

Not only do consumers trust text messaging as a communication channel, but they want to use it to communicate with businesses.

In fact, way back in 2016, Twilio surveyed 6,000 consumers and found that 9 out of 10 people wanted to communicate with brands via text messaging. With the pandemic forcing consumers to rely on other communication channels and the normalization of business texting services, this number has likely only gone up.

Text messaging is often a far more convenient way to communicate for consumers and businesses alike. Customers can ask their questions faster and in settings where talking on the phone can be uncomfortable.

Phone calls also require an employee to stop what they’re doing and answer the phone. With text messaging, quick replies are important, but employees don’t have to drop everything immediately. As long as a business can receive text messages, they’ll never have missed text messages. They can reply automatically through a chatbot, or employees can get back to customers between tasks.

Consumers want their interactions with businesses to be fast and simple, and with the increase in missed calls, calling a business often doesn’t get customers what they need. That’s why Numa lets customers switch to texting when an employee can’t answer their call. Our conversational artificial intelligence lets customers place orders, schedule appointments, and get the information they wanted—all without taking up an employee’s time.

As texting businesses continues to grow in popularity, there’s also a risk that customers will text a business that doesn’t have it.

This creates a frustrating experience for customers who expect local businesses to be accessible through this channel. They may assume they’re just being ignored, or that the business isn’t operating. They may also expect that these businesses will have the context of their text message if they call. And these businesses don’t even know someone has tried to contact them.

Calling and texting businesses has increased 120%

While remote interactions have massively increased across the board, calling and texting specifically have increased by 120%. Mainstreet businesses are receiving more than twice the volume of text messages and phone calls than they did before the pandemic.

For businesses with call answering services and artificial intelligence-enabled texting, this increased volume is no problem. But if someone has to manually field every call and reply to every text message, they’re going to have to dedicate far more time to this responsibility.

Numa takes this weight off employees’ shoulders by directing callers to continue the conversation via texting. Then our artificial intelligence takes over to answer customer questions (like hours, location, and dine-in options) and can even assist with basic actions like booking appointments and taking orders. Whenever there’s a question Numa can’t answer, our software notifies your employees that there’s a message waiting for them. Then it learns from your replies, so it can handle more complex inquiries in the future.

This dramatically reduces the burden of repetitive customer interactions, and when your employees do need to reply to a message, they can do so at their convenience without talking on the phone.

Small businesses have seen a 43% increase in online shopping

Most Main Street businesses have modified their day-to-day operations in some capacity to comply with public health guidelines. But over the last few months, consumers have changed their behavior to avoid public spaces and lower their risk of contracting or spreading COVID-19. This has naturally increased their reliance on online shopping—and even Main Street businesses are seeing an uptick in online transactions.

Our customers have seen a 43% increase in online shopping. Businesses that didn’t previously offer online ordering capabilities are being pushed to add this functionality to their websites. This increased online business makes it even more valuable for companies to have a chatbot.

Consumers often use chatbots as an alternative way to navigate websites and quickly find the information they need. Using conversational AI, chatbots recognize what customers are asking and then serve up the relevant information from a company’s website (or their prewritten responses).

In the case of placing online orders, a chatbot functions like an automated host, giving people a conversational way to explore their options and place their orders. And of course, with Numa, if an online customer has an unusual or complicated question, our software can punt it to your employees and then learn from your responses.

Restaurants are seeing 393% more revenue from text-to-order

With strong consumer trust in text messaging and a clear desire to interact with businesses through this channel, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that mainstreet businesses that have enabled text-to-order services have seen a significant spike in these transactions. Our customers have seen 393% more revenue come through text-to-order than before the pandemic.

Text-to-order lets consumers place an order without talking on the phone or going through a website. So they can initiate transactions in places where they don’t have internet access or would prefer not to talk. And since there’s a written record of exactly what was ordered, there’s less chance of having a miscommunication. 

With Numa, text-to-order conversations automatically move from Numa to your online ordering platform, so you never miss an order. (And your customers don’t have to fight autocorrect when they’re typing in the name of your specialty burger!)

Plus, your regular customers can save your number in their contacts, and anytime they want to order, they’re just a short text conversation away from getting what they want.

Curbside communication represents 11% of all messages

Before the pandemic, curbside service was an added convenience some businesses provided just because they could. Now it’s becoming a necessity, and consumers are getting used to it. Over the last few months, we’ve seen curbside communications rise to 11% of all messages between businesses and their customers.

When someone pulls up to the curb, they need a quick, convenient way to say, “I’m here.” And businesses need an efficient system for determining who is at the curb and what they need. A receptionist or another employee can manually handle this communication, but Numa can take some of the load off by using AI to gather that contextual information.

Curbside communications represent 11% of all messages, but with conversational AI, it doesn’t have to take 11% of anyone’s time. Numa hands off the conversation once we can confirm who’s at the curb and what a business needs to do for them.

Check-ins for curbside orders have increased 748%

Thanks to social distancing guidelines and concern for public health, there’s been a massive increase in demand for curbside pickup orders. Instead of coming inside and waiting in line to pick up online or over-the-phone orders, customers are simply pulling up and waiting in their cars.

This is obviously more convenient for customers, and right now, it’s a helpful way for businesses to adhere to COVID-19 guidelines. But as this specialized service takes up more time, it’s also becoming increasingly important for businesses to develop a clear, streamlined system for handling these interactions.

As the pandemic continues, curbside orders will become even more normalized. People are seeing the value of this kind of service, and consumers will likely expect it to continue after the threat and fear of COVID-19 wanes. For many businesses, curbside pickup could very well be part of the “new normal.”

Numa is answering 3X more calls

Amidst all this increased remote customer interaction, call answering services like Numa are helping businesses capitalize on these changes in consumer behavior. Our software has been handling three times as many calls as usual, preventing missed calls from turning into missed business, and ensuring employee time is spent where it’s most needed.

With Numa’s machine learning capabilities, the more businesses use it, the better it gets at saving them time. Every time an employee replies to a customer, Numa is learning, saving responses for future use and either automating more communication or serving up suggested answers for employees to use as they see fit.

Throughout the US and Canada, Main Street businesses can’t be confident about when things will return to “business as usual.” But with Numa, they can be confident that their business will adapt to this new normal.

Don’t let your missed calls become missed business

For Main Street businesses, every call counts. But phone conversations also take up employees’ valuable time. If your business receives at least five calls a day, Numa can help your business save time and money every single day.

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