Why local marketing matters now more than ever

When every penny counts, marketers often don’t appreciate the extent to which it can also drive footfall at a local level when used correctly.

If you’re reading this, you’ll already understand why brands (and CMOs alike) find comfort in investment that delivers measurable results - especially now when marketing spend is under the magnifying glass.

We know that performance marketing provides clear trackable insights such as non-branded impressions for store listings and general ‘near me’ search data. But many marketers don’t appreciate how successful digital marketing can be when it comes to driving footfall in-store. In fact, in many instances the store visit starts with a digital touchpoint.

Are you putting the customer first? Let’s pause for a moment and think about the most important consideration in our role as marketers. Is it impressions, conversions, ROI?

Actually, it’s none of those. We need to think beyond metrics and put the customer’s needs at the centre of everything we do. The customer shouldn’t just come first, they should be at the core of each marketing decision whether that is designing website navigation or deciding which topics to address through content marketing.

Every decision should be led by your understanding of the customer. It’s easy to get caught up in granular details and mountains of data points but it’s important not to lose sight of our overarching objective - to give customers what they want.

While the consumer's needs are of the utmost importance, we must also acknowledge that it’s impossible to gain a full view of attribution - customers come and go from your website or they walk past a store…the list of potential interactions goes on.

Due to the multitude of possible touchpoints a person can have with a business, it’s difficult to know which one tipped them over the edge from a warm lead to fully fledged customer. So, how can you be sure you’re putting the customers' needs first?

Well as cliched as it sounds, you must tap into your ‘gut marketing feeling’. Does this piece of creative convey the message that taps into what your customers want? Does this blog post include links to the products that readers need?

While intuition and common sense play major parts in the decision making process, there are ways that we can codify our ‘gut feeling’ by using insights to confirm what our instincts suggest.

Using search data to understand local customers

Thanks to search engines, national franchises are now competing directly with smaller local vendors to capture share of voice online. In the face of increased competition for attention online, marketers must take proactive action to optimise their visibility to increase web visits, revenue and footfall.

A good starting point is to first ensure that your website is structured in such a way that local store information is accurate and up to date.Despite sounding relatively straightforward, for some this is a huge undertaking and requires significant time and investment to make sure that prospective customers can easily access the information they need when they need it.

When you’re happy with the overall website architecture, what is the next step toward understanding what customers need on a local level?

Google’s main local ranking factor is relevance, so you must make sure that online content matches and/or answers the user’s query. The key to this is to identify areas of business opportunity through local keyword rankings within Google map results.

Once you’ve uncovered the keywords - let’s use ‘bathrooms’ as an example- these should be cross-referenced against overall search volume to ensure your SEO and content strategy is focused on addressing topics that make the biggest impact on the business. The keywords used should align to the product categories people are searching for, which also helps push branch store pages up the rankings.

When it comes to evaluating the success of the keywords chosen to improve online visibility, drive footfall to stores, it’s a matter of looking beyond the obvious metric of ‘get directions’ which signals the user is on their way to store. It’s important to measure offline performance against e-commerce revenues and click and collect orders. The uplift in e-commerce performance actuals benchmarked to store footfall will provide a clear indication of just how successful the brand-to-local strategy has been.

The importance of ‘how to’ content

While keyword search data and social listening tools can tell us what consumers are looking for, the next step is to use these insights to directly engage with them. A great way to do this is by educating prospects via ‘how to’’ and instructional or inspirational content, such as the latest bathroom designs, trends and colour schemes

For example, if a popular search within your niche is ‘laminate flooring near me’ or ‘install laminate flooring at home’ sharing information on your website about how to measure and fit laminate flooring is a natural (if somewhat obvious) suggestion.

The issue is that despite many businesses already creating ‘how to’ content, it’s rarely served at the right time in the user journey. Earning a large volume of website traffic is great, but that achievement is diminished if browsers don’t become customers. Advice on your website should point users directly to their nearest store to buy the products mentioned. If this isn’t the case, it needs to be rectified. Fully optimised brand-to-local approach.

By (re)designing local branch pages and improving overall UX, you enable people to navigate your website easily and access the information they need, when they need it most.

We’ve all been there at some stage - you research a task (let’s say fitting that laminate floor), after hours of labouring you realise you need one last tool to finish the job so you go online….only to find out there’s no way to check local availability or stock levels. Frustrating isn’t it? How can we approach UX with the goal of providing customers with an optimised, joined up journey?

Rethink the role of local branch pages. Customers want more than just opening hours. They want a showcase of what products are available in which specific store, click and collect availability in various locations and an obvious path for them to navigate between products online and in-store.

Taking this thinking further, another way that marketers can use a brand-to-local approach to drive sales is managing customer reviews. How? Well, reviews can be used as a basis for learnings on a regional and local level.Customers should be able to easily voice their opinion and, most importantly, be acknowledged in return.

With a clear internal reporting structure in place, branch managers can share feedback, learnings and knowledge with their regional managers and in the spirit of collaboration, the learnings can be communicated through the chain of command to other store locations.

The little things can make a big difference. As marketers, we have an incredible amount of customer data at our fingertips. Performance marketing is synonymous with e-commerce, but many overlook its ability to drive footfall in-store.

The good news is that it’s likely that most agencies and in-house marketing teams alike already have access to the data needed to increase footfall.

The missing link is how we use regional data to further our understanding of consumers at a local level and create a better customer experience in the process.

By Mike Fantis

VP managing partner

DAC Group