To say that the COVID-19 pandemic has had massive consequences on the retail industry would be an incredible understatement. From bankruptcies to widespread contractions in operations, the retail industry has been at the center of the COVID-19 economic crisis since the beginning of the outbreak.
And beyond just the operational difficulties they’ve had to face, retailers are also having to completely rethink their advertising and marketing strategies as consumers lean more heavily on online shopping and purchasing than ever before. Moreover, with consumers choosing to stay closer to home, localized search advertising has become one of the most disrupted spaces within the entire retail advertising industry — and retailers are struggling to keep up.
With that in mind, here are a few things retailers can do to optimize their local search strategies in the face of this unprecedented period of turbulence and evolution.
Beware of the Blind Spots in Google Location Targeting
Location targeting has been one of the most groundbreaking innovations in advertising since the 2000s, especially in search. However, although location targeting — through Google Ads or others — has paid huge dividends for advertisers and marketers by allowing them to increase pay-per-click returns, blind spots still exist.
While the data provided through tools like Google Ads does help advertisers and marketers make more informed decisions, the data isn't granular enough for them to be as sophisticated as they need to be to find success in the modern local search landscape. For example, Google Ads doesn't provide the necessary detail retail advertisers and marketers need to track competitor actions or hidden opportunities, which can prove to be game-changers. Therefore, retailers and their advertising and marketing teams need to look beyond just these tools to build well-rounded local search strategies.
Get as Local as Possible
Today’s local search ecosystem is evolving as quickly as it ever has, and therefore it's easy for retailers to feel a bit rudderless when trying to optimize their advertising and marketing strategies. But in actuality, the key to finding local search success is incredibly straightforward: just try to get as local as possible, taking one location at a time.
By centering your strategies on elements such as “near me” searches as a way to understand demand, or analyzing competitor movements to see what exactly your competitors are doing in an immediate area, running an effective local search operation becomes much easier to handle than trying to think of everything at once.
Leverage In-Store-Centric Ad Copy
Even while many retailers have been able to buoy revenue through online channels, many are still looking to drive in-store footfall as a way to shore up brick-and-mortar revenue.
By leveraging ad copy messaging that promotes “click and collect” (or “buy online, pick up in-store”) or exclusive in-store coupons, retailers can drive traffic to their physical store locations. In addition, this copy can run in tandem with online efforts to promote sales via both channels and create a closed loop by which online and in-store feed off of each other.
The local search market is as competitive as it has ever been for retailers today. And with so much at stake as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, having the most intelligent and comprehensive local search strategy is pivotal. By focusing on these few tactics above, retailers can make sure that they're putting their best foot forward this year.
Ashley Fletcher is vice president of marketing at search ad pioneer Adthena.
Related story: 2021: The Year of Localization