The evolving need for a localised strategy to reach customers in the moments that matter

A report by ThinkwithGoogle states that 61% of customers lose trust in a brand if the information provided is incorrect

Automating the process makes it simpler for a brand to update the local listings on multiple platforms in one go.
By Tarun Sobhani

In the span of one short year, the world as we know it has been divided into the pre-pandemic and the post-pandemic eras. Leaving aside our personal lives, every industry, business, and organisation had to undergo dramatic changes to adjust to the new post-pandemic era. Today our society is a mix of neighbours extending a helping hand to the elderly in the community, and those acknowledging the sacrifices made by health workers fighting on the frontline to stem the spread of COVID-19.The pandemic brought people closer, if only virtually and reminded everyone of the value of a local ecosystem – how it can support you; help you thrive and be closest at the hour of need.

The pandemic shook the very core of how individuals function on a daily basis. From being impulsive, consumers today are more cautious. The clear expectation from the end consumer today is that brands should align their offerings to their needs, in close proximity to their location and at the time needed. Restrictions on movement, social distancing norms and hygiene concerns, all led to a greater focus towards the online space. Not just for shopping, but also when searching for relevant information related to brands and their products. While brands witnessed a spike in their online customer engagement, they were challenged by the dwindling footfalls in their local stores. According to Google’s first ‘Community Mobility Report’, published at the onset of the pandemic, India witnessed a 77% decrease in consumer movement offline in the retail and recreational segments causing a huge dip in offline sales.

Recovery from this sudden dip in the way brands do business, has been slow. With restrictions easing gradually, brands have had to focus their energies on providing services that will not only help improve customer confidence but bring them back to physical stores by facilitating a seamless online to offline and near me buying experience.

How does one do this? By providing customers what they need when they need it. According to an article by Safari Digital, of the 3.5 billion searches on Google every day, a whopping 1.6 billion searches are done for locally relevant information. Customers are primarily looking for ease and convenience of buying a product or service as close to them as possible. They are also largely dependent on the information available in the online space about the local availability of their requirement.

Against this background, brands need to step up their game and make the most of this recovery phase, by enhancing their local visibility in the digital landscape. The objective is simple – get found by high-intent customers in the moments that matter. A robust local marketing strategy coupled with the strengths of search engine listings and other social media platforms is what a brand requires at this point in time.

The need for a local strategy

If we deep-dive into the recent consumer buying patterns, we would notice that a final purchase, whether online or in-store, is preceded by in-depth research. The same article by Safari Digital, states that “Near Me” mobile searches grew by 136% last year. This is a clear indicator that this element is here to stay. In today’s world a ‘Near Me’ search is not just about location-based availability, but extends to searches for product reviews, store-level information (working hours, parking, safety protocols, sales and offers, inventory etc.) and other related details.

In a recent poll conducted by SingleInterface, 72% of respondents said that they searched for products or brands online before calling or visiting the physical location. Not only that, the survey also highlighted the importance of reviews, with 60% of the participants stating that positive reviews do influence their purchase decision. It’s clear that giving your customers consistent, quick and accurate information across all digital touchpoints and responding to their queries; be it social media platforms, search engines or web portals is the only way to establish the authenticity of your business. This strategy driven by a local focus also ensures a higher discoverability on search engines, fuelled by better quality score, higher rankings, impressions and thus, higher visibility and conversions from the end customers.

What should brands do to reach customers in the moments that matter?

Today, brands are dealing with an evolved customer who has access to both online and offline resources. Having a unified and integrated local marketing approach is a must-have for brands with multiple location presence and multi-channel consumer touchpoints. While these strategies include a series of aspects, it begins with the basic requirement of having NAP(Name, Address and Phone) consistency across every physical outlet, to be up-to-date across the digital ecosystem.

A report by ThinkwithGoogle states that 61% of customers lose trust in a brand if the information provided is incorrect. Thus, be it an owned asset such as a store locator on company pages, or on social media, ensuring accurate and consistent details of your local store drives better engagement with prospective and existing customers.

Having a local microsite for your brand is another important element that can enhance your location-based marketing strategy. Creating and integrating these pages with your social channels and fuelling them with relevant local content is a highly effective way to enhance consumer-connect. It can be achieved by updating working hours, parking details, stock availability at that particular store, sale and discounts, reviews and other content that is relevant to every location.

Leveraging technological advancements for efficiency in local strategies

While having a robust local presence in the online space is of utmost importance, it is a mammoth task for national brands to ensure the accuracy and relevance of information across each and every location. Given this, brands can now leverage an array of available technological advancements, especially Automation and AI to strengthen their marketing initiatives. With these technologies, brands can manage their multiple stores through a single source of truth.

Automating the process makes it simpler for a brand to update the local listings on multiple platforms in one go. It also gives a boost to local stores by integrating them with their social media pages on Facebook. These digital advancements can also help a brand to manage responses to reviews centrally and instantly through AI powered sentiment based automated response mechanisms. Higher ratings and prompt replies go a long way in building a positive brand reputation and encourages customers to take prompt action.

All these initiatives help the brand to connect in a meaningful way and also understand the behaviour, queries and expectations of an end user. The data collated can be used by brands to tweak or strengthen their marketing strategies to improve sales. Having a robust local marketing strategy that leverages consumer insights and digital advancements is what brands need to focus on in order to gain a higher share of voice on local search and discovery, resulting in more leads and footfall in the coming future.

(The author is founder and CEO, SingleInterface. Views expressed are personal.)

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