Prioritizing Your Retail Local Search Marketing Strategy for 2019
Local search marketing for retail encompasses a huge array of responsibilities, ranging from placing in-store signage that encourages customers to make complaints in person (rather than online) to using schema for marking up reviews on the brand’s website. There are literally hundreds of tasks and initiatives clamoring for your marketing team’s attention, and while they all matter, what should be at the top of the list in 2019?
Let’s look at the top three efforts deserving priority focus this year:
Strategy No. 1: Consumer Experiences
Sixty-two percent of new retail employees receive less than 10 hours of training. This statistic can be directly linked to the fact that 57 percent of consumer complaints stem from employee behavior and poor customer service. Before your retail brand can offer the kind of exceptional shopper experiences that lead to an influential online reputation and lucrative loyalty, you must make a major investment into exceptional staff training. Every new hire must be equipped to carry out the customer service policy, manage complaints, and showcase merchandise. These efforts need to be coupled with an in-store setting that’s clean, functional and navigable.
Once these essentials are in place, you can go the extra mile by highlighting the unique traits that make your brand deserving of customer loyalty. These might include green business practices, community giving, special rewards, among other things.
Strategy No. 2: Consumer Sentiment
Everything in strategy No. 1 underlines how vital consumer sentiment is. While your brand can’t directly control what one shopper tells their friends over lunch, you do control their in-store experiences, which inform their opinions and what they say. And when these sentiments end up on the web in the form of reviews, there’s a chance to gain even more control. As a retailer, you should fully embrace this opportunity by doing the following:
- acquiring reviews in compliance with the various review platforms’ guidelines;
- responding quickly to those reviews with both thanks for positive sentiment and a problem-solving attitude when a customer complains, showing the responsiveness, accountability and professionalism of your brand; and
- analyzing sentiment across time to identify emerging problems at specific retail locations for swift fixes.
Google says that 27 percent of searches for local information have the intent of reading reviews. That’s about one-third of your potential customers reading consumer sentiment to see how they will be treated by your brand and how you respond when something goes wrong. In 2019, focusing on the entire consumer review journey will set you apart from less responsive brands.
Strategy No. 3: Consumer Convenience
The concept of customer convenience as a selling point is as old as retail itself, but there’s one facet of this that large retailers continue to struggle with every year: online convenience. It’s a major win to offer effortless in-store experiences for shoppers, but when you inconvenience a busy customer with an old phone number, old email address, or incorrect store hours on the web, your relationship has gotten off on the wrong foot.
As a retailer, you must fully manage all of your most visible online local business listings — often automating the process with software to scale it — to ensure that shoppers are finding accurate information on Google, Yelp, Facebook, Infogroup, YP, Acxiom, and a host of other platforms. But it’s not enough to just “set it and forget it.” Because most listings platforms accept third-party data, they must be continuously managed for ongoing accuracy to prove to customers that your brand cares about their convenience.
You’ll have noticed by now that the consumer is at the heart of all three of the most important local search marketing strategies for 2019. This is intentional. Consumer expectations are rising, forcing brands to be more accessible, transparent, caring, and to stand for more than just sales. The smartest retailers will prioritize what shoppers care about most, and build a reputation that can weather any market trends and stand the test of time.
Miriam Ellis is a local search marketer associate at Moz, an SEO software and community platform.