Local Marketing is the Avenue to Retail Success
2020 delivered a serious reality check to retail businesses. Sudden closures and operating restrictions after stores could reopen not only left merchants trying to figure out how to do business, it also trashed just about every normal operating plan they had, including marketing. In reality, or the new reality, it showed how important local marketing and outreach is to independent businesses.
A recent study by Red Egg Marketing shows how much most shoppers want to support local businesses. An incredible 83% say they would rather support a local business than a large corporation and 80% of them saying they would spend more money to do it. Their reasoning?
54% say local goods and services are higher quality
31% say accessibility to local products is key
20% say they shop locally out of habit
15% say price is their determining factor
So, what’s the best way to reach local shoppers? Strangely enough, it’s probably best to start with the tools that allow e-commerce companies and big-box stores to reach your customers: The internet and digital communications.
Localizing online outreach
Hubspot, a leading provider of digital marketing and sales tools, says 97% of people learn about local companies online more than any place else. And 88% of mobile online searches result in people calling on that business within a day.
These are numbers that are hard to ignore for small, local, independent businesses. They also provide the perfect place to start for businesses looking to improving their local outreach. Local marketing is more than just radio, television and print advertising.
Localizing the content on your website is the first step to increasing your browsers and potential local shoppers. Adding locational terms can narrow the trillions of web browsers down to the more manageable local market. For instance, instead of listing that you own a bike shop, you can say you’re “the best bike shop in Bend, Oregon.” Unless your shop runs an extensive mail–order business, this sharpens the aim of your website to any shoppers within driving distance of your brick-and-mortar store or stores.
It’s also crucial to add your location or locations and service area to your website. One of the easiest ways to find out how much work you have to improve your local marketing is to Google your business. Often, third-party websites such as your local Better Business Bureau, business organizations, and more compile lists of local businesses and post them online. Make sure your information on those sites is accurate and fresh. Pages like these help your online visibility and can often link directly to your business.
Google My Business is a great place to start optimizing your website. It’s free to post all your relevant information and it puts you in local business and product searches. It also puts you in Google Maps which can lead to more shoppers finding their way to your stores.
Another service, Pointy by Google, lets independent businesses post their products on local internet searches right next to the big boys like Target, Walmart and Amazon. These also improve your local search engine optimization (SEO).
Buck Electric Ace Hardware in Ocean Shores, Washington uses Pointy among other local SEO optimization to gain the notice of local shoppers.
“Particularly for us because we live and work in a remote area, it seems like everybody today just clicks on Amazon.com to shop and there are a lot of items we have that are the same price. This gives us the chance to get that sale first,” explains Jody Cadle, the business’s bookkeeper and de facto marketing guru.
Buck Electric Ace Hardware posts its products online through its Paladin retail management system’s integration with Pointy. Cadle says it was easy to set up and products populate the store’s Pointy website daily as they’re sold and scanned into their system.
You can also invest more than your time in improving your digital footprint. You can localize your paid advertising in both print and digital. Google Ads connect directly to your online profile to connect you with local shoppers.
Investing in local search engine optimization (SEO) is another wise move. Local SEO means optimizing your website content to include locally relevant terms and keywords. Hubspot research shows that local searches lead 50% of mobile users to visit stores within 24 hours. Creating local content is also key to attracting local browsers. News about local events and local organizations is the kind of content that localizes your website.
Having a mobile-friendly website is crucial to bringing in new shoppers. In 2020, 50% of global e-commerce revenue came from mobile devices. It’s expected that by the end of this year, 73% of e-commerce sales will take place on a mobile device. Add to that:
61% of mobile searchers are more likely to contact a local business with a mobile-friendly website.
60% of smartphone users have contacted a business directly from local search results.
39% of smartphone users are more likely to browse or shop a company’s site because it’s easier to use.
Think with Google says one-third of all mobile searches relate to location. So, businesses with optimized Google business profiles that emphasize their location or service areas are more apt to attract these potential customers.
A study from Alignable says 85% of small business owners says word-of-mouth referrals are the best way to acquire new local customers.
If word-of-mouth referrals are such a great way to gain new customers, merchants need to make sure their stores create positive shopping experiences. Joining business organizations such as the local chamber of commerce or Main Street association is a quick and easy way to spread your business gospel, too.
Incentivize your customers
Offer your current loyal customers a discount or gift for referring your store to their family, friends and neighbors.
Empower your staff
Including your staff in your customer referral program is a good way to further spread the word about your business and it builds esprit de corps. You can also enlist staff to create videos to post on social media sites or commercial television advertisements. Hubspot says video has become the most commonly used format in content marketing.
Rewards programs are nothing new. Customers love to feel valued and loyalty programs are a perfect way to do it. If they spend a designated amount at your store, reward them with $5, $10, or $20 off their next qualifying purchase. These programs can often be implemented and tracked through your business’s retail management system.
Get involved in your community
This suggestion probably seems like a no-brainer. But it involves more throwing some money at local Little League, Girl Scouts troops, or adult recreation league teams.
In Indian Trail, North Carolina, Hanna Wingo at Indian Trail Hardware started hosting pop-up markets for local artisans outside the store. Five years later, the store hosts five markets a year, each featuring up to 20 vendors, food trucks and local entertainment.
“It was hard getting started because I didn’t have any connection to local craftspeople,” Wingo told Hardware Retailing. “Now I don’t have to look anymore. The vendors reach out to me.”
These kinds of events create an enormous amount of goodwill with the community. Admittedly, this kind of thing has been hard to do during the COVID-19 pandemic, but the virus and its social restrictions won’t be with us forever.
Publish your success stories!
Every successful business has customers who rave about how much they love the staff, service, products, food, etc … Use those people. Get them to put a few lines down on paper. Do a quick phone video recording of them. Get a photo of them with their favorite staff member and use those.
Testimonials can be used in print advertising, in-house videos, Google or Yelp style reviews, on your Facebook page, or your website. Word-of-mouth advertising doesn’t have to come straight from the horse’s mouth.
This kind of reverts to improving your digital presence, but social media is a quick and easy way to increase your local footprint and engage with customers. Social media is a good way to develop and cultivate dialogue with loyal customers and potential shoppers. Heck, more stores have Facebook pages than dedicated websites.
Home health and fitness equipment sales more than doubled to $2.3 billion from March to October 2020, according to market research firm NPD Group. People locked up at home invested in everything from $20 dumbbells and yoga mats to high tech exercise treadmills and bikes that can cost up to $2,500. Treadmill sales increased 135%, stationary bike sales nearly tripled, and the Peloton, which leads the high-tech fitness craze, reported $1.8 billion in sales in 2020.
The result has been home gyms being built in spare bedrooms or garages, sending most DIYers to their local hardware stores.
There are plenty of ways to increase your local recognition in your community. If it seems overwhelming to institute all at once, focus on one initiative at a time and then move on to another. It’s well worth the time, effort and money you’ll put into it. It just takes a little initiative.