How Local Search Can Make the Register Ring This Holiday Shopping Season

Alex Porter.jpgNRF reported holiday retail sales increased 4% from 2015, to $658.3 billion in 2016, showing consumers are eager to spend. But with an increasing amount of online shoppers, restaurants and stores are struggling to stay competitive.

During the holidays, stores can run low on inventory or are overcrowded. Using local search, franchisees can utilize offline data patterns, including where, when and which stores consumers frequently shop, to increase revenue from holiday spending.

Can a Frenzied Customer Find Your Location Easily?

Holiday shoppers can be stressed and easily annoyed, meaning retailers have to work harder to please them. Is your location discoverable online? Can someone easily find it using Google, Facebook, Amazon or Edge? Bad data can wreak havoc on your brand by showing conflicting local search listings for your business and has the potential to keep your listing from appearing at all. Your location(s) will be undiscoverable, resulting in a lost of sale and overall revenue.

Brainstorm non-branded, industry keywords based on user query data within online directories and search engines. Consumers are increasingly searching for agnostic terms, “roasted turkey,” instead of for a specific brand (Boston Market). Ignoring these general searches will potentially let the competition capture those customers and incremental revenue.

Use that same data to develop product- and category-focused ads for these brand-agnostic search queries, and develop ad copy and ad extensions that speak directly to the user and their immediate interest.

Understand Supply and Demand During the Holidays

The trick to driving foot traffic to your locations? Leverage national campaigns that are also complemented by hyper-local campaigns.

On a national scale, distribute relevant holiday content to all business listings on Google and Bing to encourage store visits, including promotions and reward programs. Launch a national paid media campaign focusing on driving awareness of specials and promotions. National PPC focuses on brand terms and messaging and a national display campaign drives awareness for both store locations and e-commerce options.

On a hyper-local level, analyze historical data by region and trends from previous peak seasons, and use that data to create local paid search campaign segments based on the varying performance of specific regions.

It’s important to properly address budget management and impression share during these high-volume periods. Have a plan of action for daily/hourly management of campaign budgets and bids on top performing keywords to capture the maximum amount of relevant search volume possible. Some competitors (and non-competitors) overspend media dollars during peak holiday seasons, increasing costs for everyone. If you’re not managing budgets accordingly, you could be paying top dollar and still fail to achieve top ranking. Monitor potential competitors that cast a wide net, with limited targeting, and spend dollars recklessly to achieve top ranking. Rather than outbid them, key tactical changes to your campaign - when managed efficiently - can help your business ranking in the top three spots for your core keywords and allow you to retain your market share without sacrificing ROI.

For Those Online-to-Offline Shoppers - Is Your Site Mobile Friendly?

Is your business information up-to-date and accurate across the major directories and search engines? If you have a different social page for each location, ensure messaging and branding is universal across the board.

Mobile makes up more than 60% of all search activity. Your site should be mobile-optimized and offer incentives for downloading your app. Hitwise’s “Mobile Search: Topics and Themes” report found “Food & Beverage” resulted in 72% of mobile search volume. Consumers need to eat, and you need to connect with them.

82% of shoppers consult their phones in-store before purchasing. What is your online copy saying about your brand? Are your prices competitive? Is mobile call tracking enabled for customers who dial one of your locations? It's no longer just a store or online experience, it’s a mobile-first experience.

Know Your Customer Better Than Your Competitor Does

If you and a competitor are selling turkeys, consider why your brand or product is different or unique. Don’t simply spend money recklessly to achieve Position One ranking and ignore the important steps required to connect user queries with qualified ad copy. Connect thoughtful ads with robust landing pages and content that continue to move them toward a purchase decision.

Personalize an individual's shopping experience by understanding their interests and past purchases. Would they prefer tofurkey? If so, provide a coupon for that product. By utilizing customer data to create a profile, you can cater to their needs the minute they step in-store. Once there, focus on “near-me” search. Creating product-focused search ads for brand-agnostic queries like “happy hour near me” or “cheap eats” are a quick way to draw in foot traffic. It ensures your stores are showing up in organic search results and can draw a wide range of prospective customers who might not have stumbled across your name before.

While retail might be moving towards digital, consumers will be shopping in stores for a while. They value the experience and feedback from an associate. The key is improving and creating a personalized in-store experience and leveraging data to deliver more customized products and offers. Voice search, mobile apps and email marketing will continue to help build detailed customer profiles used to steer shoppers to their interests, complete with real-time, individualized sales offers. A retailer’s job is to be flexible, offer personalized experiences and let the shoppers own it on their own terms. If you don’t, your competitor will.

Alex Porter is CEO of Location3, where he forges seamless relations between Location3 Media and prospective clients, and oversees the day-to-day operations of the entire company.