THE IMPACT OF COVID-19 ON LOCAL SERVICES

The local services industry includes businesses like gyms, self-storage, salons, and car washes. Many of these businesses have yet to reopen after stay-at-home orders were first initiated, whereas other businesses in this industry never closed. This led to some drastically different data than the retail industry or all industries as a whole.  Here’s a look at how the local services industry was impacted by the pandemic.

LOCAL BUSINESS LISTINGS

The local services industry experienced unprecedented lows in Google My Business actions made during the coronavirus. In the month of April, this industry saw around an 80% drop in phone calls, driving directions, and website visits compared to the previous month. When most of the country issued stay-at-home orders, this industry was least visited by customers.

BRAND REPUTATION

The local services industry saw an 85% drop in review volume from March to April. This drop is not only due to Google disabling reviews from March 20th to April 10th, but the drop in foot traffic across all local services. May’s 150% increase in reviews month-over-month, is reflective of the slight increase in foot-traffic experienced in May.

The local services industry was the only industry to actually increase in star rating during this time. Our research found the reason for the increase in ratings is due to the self-storage sub-industry. Self-storage brands were able to remain fully operational during the pandemic. The ability to offer the expected customer experience during a time when most businesses had to pivot their experience or close completely, resulted in more positive reviews from consumers.

Unlike other industries, the local services industry was able to keep its review response rate steady during the pandemic. We only saw a 6% drop in review response rate from March to April. However, by May the response rate was back to pre-pandemic levels. This also may have attributed to the growth in review ratings during this time. 

Aligned with their increase in review ratings during the pandemic, the positive review sentiment found in reviews grew during the pandemic. From February to May, positive review sentiment grew by 10%. Additionally, negative sentiment dropped by 7%. Again, this could be due to the ability of some businesses to maintain a somewhat “normal” customer experience in a time when that’s hard to find.

SUMMARY

The local services industry, although impacted greatly by the pandemic in terms of foot traffic and review volume, experienced a unique rise in positive review sentiment and star ratings. Brands in this industry should take advantage of this increase in star ratings by optimizing their online presence to reach more customers. By strengthening their local SEO efforts to accompany their growth in review ratings, these businesses will have no problem acquiring new and returning customers. 

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