Misinformation online costs independent high street businesses £6.1 billion a year

2nd August 2017

  • 67% of consumers now look online for information before heading to a physical shop
  • Yet, 61% of independent businesses, including restaurants, hairdressers, pharmacists and convenience shops, have inaccurate or missing opening hours listed on the web
  • This is costing independent high street businesses £6.1 billion a year in lost revenue
  • The UK Domain is urging businesses to check and take charge of their online information

Inaccurate or missing online information is costing independent businesses £6.1 billion a year in lost revenue, according to data published today by the UK Domain.1

Despite nearly seven in ten (67%) customers-to-be checking the web when planning to visit a physical business,2 61% of independent businesses have inaccurate opening hours listed online, or none at all.3

Businesses are often victims of inaccurate online listings that search engines share for the world to see. They may have no idea that these listings are there and the information shared is often unverified by the businesses themselves, relying on crowdsourced data and potentially unreliable third-party sources.4

The cost of inaccuracies

The consequences for independent businesses are huge. Almost two-thirds (63%) of shoppers would never return to an independent business if they arrived to find that the business was shut and that they’d had a wasted journey, despite online information stating it was open.2

The winners here are the established chains: the certainty afforded by their more established and accurate online presence lures in more customers. 71% of people polled say once their trust has been lost by an independent business, either due to inaccurate information or another factor, they are more likely to turn to established chains.2

Ultimately, this costs independent high street businesses up to £6.1 billion in lost revenue every year as consumers spend elsewhere.1 This, coupled with the hike in business rates, where a fifth are expecting to see a rise of more than 40%, makes the retail environment increasingly challenging.5

As a champion of getting small businesses online, the UK Domain is encouraging all independent high street businesses to take charge of their web presence. Those with a website are more likely to win the confidence of potential customers because 69% of UK consumers trust businesses that have one.2

Online ‘must haves’

It’s not all about click-and-collect or buying online, the six most important things UK consumers want to be able to find at the click of a button are:

Most important pieces of informaiton on a website2

  1.  Opening hours (87%)
  2. Product information (86%)
  3. Opening days (85%)
  4. Address (81%)
  5. Contact information (78%)
  6. Business background (36%) 

Helen Tomes, Director of Marketing and Service Delivery at Nominet which runs the UK Domain, added, “Most independent businesses are online – whether they realise it or not – but unfortunately there’s no guarantee that basic information like the address and opening hours displayed about them is correct. Inaccuracies can directly impact sales, and so just as you’d never ignore a customer who visited your shop, in a world where time-poor shoppers research online, causing them a wasted trip is tantamount to poor customer service and could alienate them in the future.

“We’d strongly encourage businesses to review the information that exists about them on the web and to correct any errors. Creating a simple website outlining what you sell, when you’re open and where you’re based is an easy step to save yourself and your customers time and to improve opportunities for your business.”

Notes to editors

To gather the data for this study, the UK Domain collected online listings for 259 independent British businesses and then compared these to their actual opening times by calling or visiting the businesses in person between May and June 2017. Nominet also surveyed 2,003 British consumers between 31 May and 2 June 2017. Data analysis and econometric modelling was carried out independently by the Cebr (Centre for Economics & Business Research).

1 – The UK Domain commissioned the Cebr to analyse the primary data it collected. The total revenue lost to independent retailers whose online information is missing or incorrect is modelled by taking the percentage of relevant consumers who say they would not visit such businesses and multiplying it by the total amount of revenue that would otherwise be received by independent high street businesses whose online information is missing or incorrect. This methodology reveals that £6.1bn is not spent at independent businesses with missing or incorrect online information across the UK and that this is spent elsewhere as a result.

2 – Research conducted by Censuswide on the behalf of the UK Domain surveying 2,003 UK consumers, aged above 16+. Research carried out between 31.05.17 and 02.06.17 through an online survey.

3 – The UK Domain collected online listings for 259 independent British businesses and then compared to their actual opening times by calling or visiting the businesses in person. Data collection carried out between May and June 2017. The ten towns and cities analysed included: Bridgnorth (Shropshire), Chipping Norton (Oxfordshire), Hebden Bridge (Calderdale /West Yorkshire), Hoole (Lancashire), The Parade, Claygate (Surrey), Pately Bridge (Yorkshire Dales), Prestatyn (Wales), Falmouth (Cornwall), Seaview in Cleethorpes (Lincolnshire), Dornoch (Scottish Highlands).

4 – Google Crowdsources Business Listing Corrections, Map Edits With Expanded Local Guides Program (Link).

5 – BBC analysis (Link).

6 – Retail in 2018 – Shop numbers, Online and the High Street, The Centre for Retail Research (Link).