Why Beacons Are Failing and What Retailers Can Use Instead
Beacons quickly became the sexy, shiny object that retailers wanted to add to their marketing strategies. For the uninitiated, the devices are small, unobtrusive and can help brands collect customer data that's more accurate than traditional location tracking. So what’s the problem?
The hype cycle for beacons has waned, with little return on the heavy investment for retailers. Most have either struggled with deploying the technology, using the data generated from it or understanding how it can benefit their business. However, a better solution exists to help retailers drive incremental traffic to their businesses and increase their bottom lines: local search marketing.
Are You Using Discovery Correctly?
Proximity is the primary ranking factor for local search. However, online directories and search engines are filled with bad data, which can mislead a customer by showing conflicting local listings for a single business or potentially create an even worse problem by not showing a business listing at all. Not only is your location undiscoverable, it also impacts your overall revenue.
A solid local search strategy begins with a focus on non-branded keywords. Connecting your brand with relevant keywords based on user query data that relates to your products and services can result in reaching more consumers who didn’t know your location existed prior to searching. People are increasingly searching using phrases like “best place to buy makeup” instead of a specific brand or product. If you’re not tapping into these searches, you’re potentially letting the competition capture those customers and incremental revenue. You can also use that same data to develop product- and category-focused search ads for these brand-agnostic search queries, and then develop ad copy and ad extensions that speak directly to the user and their immediate interest.
Retailers that spend too much of their time and marketing dollars on only brand terms and broad-match keywords often end up wasting significant marketing budget on ineffective searches and let brand-agnostic consumers get away.
Customers enjoy coupons and incentives. Use your data to provide shoppers with personalized in-store discounts. Take it one step further and trigger the coupon on your company’s app when a customer walks into your store. It’s an easy way to boost app downloads, increase foot traffic and make your customer happy.
Leveraging Data Intelligence
Brands capture tons of customer data daily through online, mobile, in-store and customer service, but often lack a clear path to understanding how the incredible volume of data translates to their business goals. Google Analytics is incredibly effective for aggregating customer data into meaningful reporting, but it’s important to first think about what data and KPIs align with your overall marketing objectives and business goals. This will help you avoid the pitfall we often refer to as “data analysis paralysis.”
Once you have a clearer understanding of how your audience is interacting with your local search campaigns and your website properties, work to identify the variations in the customer journey — i.e., shoppers are looking for different things and taking different routes to get there. Campaign and data segmentation is key; it breaks down who in your target groups are converting and optimizes towards those users. Segmenting by target audience — individual custom audiences, interest sets, behaviors — increases performance, optimizes and scales effectively. If you want to get more granular, segment further by age, gender and location.
Additionally, ensure you have location landing pages built in a subdirectory on your brand website that are optimized with industry-specific and locally relevant keywords. These pages provide an opportunity to create hyperlocal content and key information that can set you apart from the competition by ranking prominently in localized search results. It’s also incredibly important to ensure your business listings on Google, Bing, Facebook and Apple are properly optimized as these are the low-hanging fruit for capturing local customers. In addition to the "Core Four" previously mentioned, make sure your data is accurate in local directories or review websites (e.g., Yelp). By creating and/or claiming all of your business listings, you’ll be in a better position to capture nonbranded search traffic and drive more customers into your store locations.
While beacons were a hot trend at one point, local search ultimately offers a better ROI for brands. Take measures now to implement a consistent strategy, and see it through. Your efforts will not only be rewarded, you’ll start seeing results almost immediately. In addition, as the local search environment grows, you’ll be confident knowing you have a solid foundation already in place.
Alex Porter is the president of Location3, a digital marketing firm that delivers enterprise-level strategy with local market activation for global brands.