Brick-and-mortar retail brands face a host of challenges resulting in waves of store closures that make headlines almost quarterly. Marketing can often be a major contributing factor in most cases, and an overall determinant of success or failure.
Take Payless ShoeSource, for instance. A number of business struggles, like significant debt load and poor retail sales, led to its recent closure of 400 stores. One marketing arm could have led to incremental, yet ultimately game-changing successes: local search. What little Payless ShoeSource has invested thus far into local search hasn't yielded it results, and that’s simply not a mistake retailers can afford to make any longer.
Retail Brands Failing Local Search
Payless ShoeSource isn’t alone here. Poor performance in local search is the greatest weakness of most retail marketing. In part, brands don’t invest enough in this because they — and their agencies — lack the expertise and the manpower to properly execute search, especially on a local level. There’s a daily participation rate in local search; it’s not like the Yellow Pages.
While search and other local marketing tactics may be “unsexy” for big brands, the poor performance of major retailers in search is shocking because it’s ultimately the single greatest bang for your marketing buck. The revenue search can yield may be incremental, but it adds up very quickly.
Take the Payless ShoeSource example again. Location3 conducted a brand SEO audit for the retailer and found it performed poorly with significant discovery keyword phrases in searches:
- Accuracy on Google and Bing both fell below 85 percent, the threshold of acceptable performance level for accuracy of business listings.
- Core keywords like “affordable shoes” and “kids shoes” resulted in percentages ranging from 58-94 on Google and 20-100 on Bing, demonstrating the lack of strong search terms.
- Payless also doesn't employ Facebook Parent/Child integration infrastructure, which provides consistent business listings for customers within the Facebook environment.
- Payless’ desktop and mobile sites received poor speed ratings, which impact SEO rankings and bounce rate.
What Marketers Need to Do Differently
Search marketing has to keep up with the changing customer journey. Search is the single most effective marketing strategy to actively shape that journey, ushering customers through the marketing funnel. And today, the MVP of local search marketing is mobile. “Near-me” Google searches continue to surge, and most of them occur on mobile. To capitalize on people looking for the products you sell, you need to make sure you have these three bases covered:
1. Capture nonbranded search keywords.
A brand may show up when users search “Payless ShoeSource,” but will still miss a bucket of potential customers searching for “kids shoes” or “best places for shoes” nearby. For department stores selling across a wide variety of product categories, that missed opportunity is even greater. Paid and organic search marketing should optimize for these queries to catch consumers who are brand-agnostic but looking to purchase. Large franchises still have a long way to go in mastering the nonbranded keyword aspect of local search, whether it’s a QSR franchise missing out on coffee lovers or a department retailer losing out on shoe shoppers.
2. Facilitate the online-offline journey.
Brands may bemoan e-commerce eating their in-store dollars, but the two should complement one another for any major retailer. There are plenty of consumers looking for the in-store experience while searching for products on mobile. However, brands often frustrate users who click on search ads by ushering them into the e-commerce experience — even if that’s not what they want. Brands need to pay closer attention to local intent keywords for people looking to get in-store, and segment their campaigns accordingly.
3. Double down on local.
Brands need a multipronged plan of attack for local search, including making sure all local listings are accurate, optimizing on apps like Google Maps, having local content and pages optimized for mobile, having info on products’ inventory levels, and more. Some of these may sound obvious, but major retailers like Payless ShoeSource haven’t mastered them yet.
Overall, any retailer should have a local strategy to build awareness of stores and what they offer, on a local level, to drive foot traffic. Most retailers have a long way to go in this area. But in the end, it could make all the difference.
Andrew Beckman is the chairman of Location3, a digital marketing agency that delivers enterprise-level strategy with local market activation.
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