Im 23 years old, which means Im somewhere in the first wave of digital natives. That means Im someone who grew up with computers and the internet. It means Im comfortable with computersin fact, they are very much a part of who I am. So, when I need to find a phone number for a mechanic, or directions to the best place to eat raw fish near me, I use the internet. It is first nature. If a business doesnt provide any information on the web, its likely Ill pass them over for one that does. Thats business lost, likely forever. Now, this is all very lovely and anecdotal, but do my expectations match those of my peers?
How do American adults find information about local businesses? Two years ago the Pew Research Center completed a study that asked this very question. Not surprisingly, they found that of the people looking for information about local businesses, 47% of them would turn to the internet. Of these internet users 36% used search engines, 16% used specialty websites, and 1% used social media (Note: those surveyed were allowed more than one response, so these numbers wont add up to 47%).
When people are looking specifically for restaurants, bars and clubs the number jumps to 51%. When you break down this data, 38% used search engines, 17% used specialty websites, and 3% used social media.
In a 2011 study, 51% of adults looking for information about restaurants, bars and clubs used the internet as a source.
In both cases the other half of the pie is shared between newspapers, local TV & radio and word of mouth. These are all important platforms, especially for local businesses, but the 800lb. gorilla here is the internet. Remember, this is 2011 data, so its not hard to believe that half (or more!) of the people looking for a business like yours are using the web. Likewise, not only does your business need an online presence, it needs to be optimized for search engines. Over a third of those internet users are using Google, Bing or something similar to find what they need. My digital native way of approaching information is not unique; there are plenty of us now and that population is only growing. This population will favor those who embrace a world where information must be readily accessible and easy to find.