Holes in the Retail Sales Funnel: 3 Local Marketing Challenges and How to Overcome Them
Regardless of the growth and hype around online shopping, the fact is that most commerce still occurs in brick-and-mortar stores. Large retailers still have to put stores in local communities to give consumers a place to freely browse and experience products for themselves. Also, as we all know, people still crave the instant gratification of an in-store purchase, regardless of the gains made by e-commerce.
Despite this, a lot of marketers at large retailers are focusing all of their digital strategies on supporting e-commerce to fend off Amazon.com, while forgetting that digital strategies are an important part of supporting those essential physical store locations. Even when they intend to visit a local store, consumers often start their journey online to source localized information.
Whether they're looking to find store hours, services, specific products in stock, or reviews, most consumers are beginning their purchase journey with a local focus on a third-party platform. This means that there are several vulnerable points along the journey that can determine the difference between a great experience and a repeat customer, or a lost opportunity and revenue down the drain. Let’s consider some of these local marketing challenges.
The Basic Accuracy Challenge
A recent study found that 52 percent of local retail listings on Google (from a sample of 559 retail chain locations distributed nationally) were inaccurate. This means that the store information on Google Maps and Google My Business had either the wrong address, phone number, business hours, or a combination of three.
If a retailer's local business information is inaccurate — if the store hours are wrong, for example, and a shopper arrives to find locked doors — that represents not just a missed sale, but a deeply resentful consumer. That person’s opinion of the company is unlikely to recover.
There are software solutions and service agencies that can help ensure business listing accuracy across platforms (besides Google, other platforms include sites like Yelp and TripAdvisor, along with apps like Apple Maps), with varying degrees of cost and success. What’s essential is that brands manage the accuracy of all of their store locations everywhere they appear online. It’s a simple but vital component of overall brand safety.
The Inventory and Discoverability Challenge
Allow me a personal anecdote: When I first moved to New York City, like others before me, I arrived to an empty apartment and suddenly realized that I had no bed and no place to sleep until my furniture arrived some days later. I was exhausted, but the solution was simple enough: I needed to buy an air mattress.
Like most people, I pulled out my phone and opened Google Maps. I searched for “Air Mattress,” and was somewhat disappointed to learn that I needed to travel several stops on the subway to a department store. So that’s what I did.
A few days later I walked into the Walgreens a block away from my new apartment, and I was appalled to see that it had plenty of air mattresses on the shelves. I was angry that I hadn’t known that when it would have made all the difference in my day. Walgreens lost a customer that day. The lesson: accurate inventory is important on local business profile platforms.
The Content Curation Challenge
An overload of available information might be the defining characteristic of our time. Never before has every business, every product, every entertainment, every individual been so thoroughly broadcast, tracked and analyzed.
One consequence is that consumers expect copious, instant, available details when they search for a business. You’ve probably had the experience of searching for a local merchant and quickly skimming through the top photos and reviews before making a decision. Very often, that’s how the consumer mind works.
Brands need to pay closer attention to the content that appears associated with their local business profiles, especially because in the aggregate this cloud of photos, reviews, contact information and location details make up a big part of overall brand identity.
When considering how to allocate marketing resources, the push for e-commerce should never overshadow the role of physical location profiles, where so many consumers have their first and most direct brand experience. Like politics, brand marketing is local.
Ashwin Ramesh is CEO of Synup, an intent marketing software platform.