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I’ve spent quite a bit of time over the Easter holiday talking with friends and family about the economy and how they are dealing with the budget crunch we are all experiencing. One of the common threads of all these conversations has been the need to stay close to home, combine shopping trips and call ahead so you don’t waste time and fuel going to multiple stores. 

More and more people are scaling back vacations and long car rides to try to save money. The next logical question is how people are adapting to this need to stay close to home and make every trip more efficient. Many of my friends and family admitted to using the print and online Yellow Pages more frequently as well as local search engines such as Google, Yahoo! and Citysearch because of the mapping features and more detailed information about the stores they were searching for. One friend admitted that if the ad or online profile page content was not specific enough, they moved on, which shows how valuable content is in driving leads. 

Almost everyone I spoke with was calling stores more often to check on availability, price and specific location before they left the house so they had a better plan of where to shop and how best to combine trips. One family member was even reserving merchandise on the phone so they could just pick it up to save even more time. Mapping, it turns out, is becoming a key advantage for online sites as was location specific information and maps in print. 

What does all this mean to Yellow Pages? If the trend is toward more local shopping and the need for directions, local business information and local contact information, then directional media such as Yellow Pages and local search are best suited to address these changing consumer behaviors. These suspicions were confirmed by a more scientific study conducted by Vertis Communications that focused on changing buying habits of grocery shoppers. The study echoes my less than scientific conclusions.

“Economic factors, such as gas prices and the housing market, are changing shoppers’ habits drastically,” says Scott Marden, director of marketing research at the Baltimore-based Vertis. “More than 90% are affected, and many are shopping closer to home, stocking up more and combining shopping trips.” 

Perhaps there is a silver lining for Yellow Pages and other local media in this new economic environment if they can get their reps tuned into this new phenomenon and effectively communicate the opportunity to local business owners.

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