4 Ways Multilocation Retail Brands Can Capitalize on Holiday Shopping
The pandemic dealt a difficult blow to retail brands competing in local markets. Millions of consumers turned to online shopping during this period, causing unprecedented growth in the e-commerce sector and impacting the bottom lines of brick-and-mortar stores. But now that the dust has cleared, we find that most commerce (84 percent) still occurs in person.
Though local retail’s piece of the pie is marginally smaller than before, there remains a huge opportunity for retail marketers to win against e-commerce giants like Amazon.com this holiday season. In a world where consumers gather information online before going in-store, local brands that communicate effectively through online channels will be rewarded.
Retail faces significant headwinds this season due to historic inflation and ongoing supply chain problems, but you can leverage these challenges within a marketing strategy designed to make your stores stand out from competitors. Here are four ways to start.
1. Promote availability and price.
Consumers will be choosier than ever this holiday season, with 70 percent saying they're accounting for inflation as they make holiday shopping plans. Many will evaluate deals or the availability of preferred products to decide on a retailer. The quick access to purchases offered by local retailers can be especially valuable as shoppers race to meet holiday deadlines and find in-stock items.
However, these advantages can only benefit retailers that broadcast deals and product inventory effectively. Consumers increasingly seek local store information in social media and search channels rather than going directly to retailer websites — especially when looking for the best price or selection amongst competing retailers.
Google has made significant moves to cater to these consumer preferences, including launching a new shopping experience in search that helps consumers find deals and compare similar offerings from various retailers. Local stores can show up in these results by uploading store inventories in Google’s Merchant Center.
2. Appeal to local audiences.
Google Business Profiles also provide opportunities to showcase deals, offers and products, and will often be seen first by consumers who use search terms like “[product name] near me.” Roughly half of all Google searches have some kind of local intent, and Google frequently showcases its own business listings, known as Google Business Profiles, in these results to help consumers select and contact local businesses.
With so many consumers turning to Google first for their local needs, retail brands must ensure their Google Business Profiles are accurate, complete and compelling. During the holidays, it’s especially important to ensure all profiles contain up-to-date information about modified hours of operation and store offerings.
Google Posts, a free promotional tool, give businesses a means to showcase special offers and promotions directly in their Google Business Profiles, driving more traffic to websites and stores. Retailers can also combine online inventories with business profiles by purchasing Local Inventory Ads via the Merchant Center.
3. Leverage untapped opportunities.
Google Business Profiles include a feature called Questions and Answers that invites the consumer to ask any question about the business. Businesses can reply, but Google also permits any other Google user to answer on the business’s behalf. Though retail brands get more questions than any other vertical, only about 9 percent of brands respond to these questions, leaving random volunteers to manage this important engagement channel.
The Questions and Answers feature allows savvy retailers to stand out. Consumers will choose retailers that promptly respond to consumer questions with helpful information over those that don’t bother. And remember that the impression you make by engaging with local consumers goes beyond the specific consumer whose question you answer.
Moreover, Google permits businesses to publish their own FAQ content within the Questions and Answers section. During the holidays, you can use this section to ask and answer common questions about gift return policies and other topics.
4. Be responsive.
Most consumers — 96 percent according to a recent survey — use online reviews when deciding between businesses. At a time when consumers will be especially selective, good reviews can tip the scales in your brand’s favor, and bad reviews can do the opposite.
Of course, there’s little a brand can do to influence the kinds of reviews consumers write, aside from providing the best possible service. However, brands can definitely influence the impression reviews create by responding to both positive and negative reviews. In fact, a recent Yelp study showed that most consumers (88 percent) would overlook a negative review if responded to appropriately by the company.
At a time when consumers feel especially selective, providing great customer service and engaging with consumer feedback can set your business apart, rewarding your brand through the holiday season and beyond with increased loyalty.
With over a decade of local search experience, Damian Rollison, SOCi's director of market insights, has focused his career on discovering innovative ways to help businesses large and small get noticed online.
With over a decade of local search experience, Damian Rollison, SOCi's Director of Market Insights, has focused his career on discovering innovative ways to help businesses large and small get noticed online. Damian's columns appear frequently at Street Fight, Search Engine Land, and other publications, and he is a frequent speaker at industry conferences such as Localogy, Brand Innovators, State of Search, SMX, and more.