The ongoing pandemic has brought about many changes in the economy and has affected how businesses operate. And, COVID-19 is expected to have a significant impact on the upcoming holiday season. A recent Think With Google report reveals some significant findings:
- Last year, 78% of shoppers used at least three channels for holiday shopping, which is expected to increase this year.
- 66% of shoppers plan to shop locally.
- 47% of shoppers intend to use features such as buying online and picking up in-store/curbside.
- 75% of shoppers plan to shop more online this season than in previous years.
These are just a few new realities as customers adjust to a very different world. Some trends, such as increased online shopping and more hybrid online/offline shopping, were already underway before 2020. For example, many customers find BOPIS (buy online, pickup in-store) extremely convenient. Current conditions, however, have given people more motivation to choose such options. Let's explore some of the most effective strategies to reach customers in this environment.
Take Advantage of Local Marketing Trends
Local marketing is essential for connecting with customers seeking nearby goods and services. Customers increasingly consult Google, review sites, and social media before patronizing local businesses.
Engage With Customers on Social Media
We often think of social media as global, but it's also localized, with content tailored to users based on their location. Here are some ways to start conversations with shoppers and connect with them where they live.
- Add locations on channels like Instagram, as well as hashtags. Include any local tags that might be relevant, such as city, region, neighborhood, or landmarks.
- Use engaging social media features, such as AR filters, polls, live streams, and Stories.
- Take advantage of the latest shopping features, such as Facebook and Instagram Shops. You can now set up customized shops that let you build your e-commerce presence on social media.
- Use paid ads. Facebook ads and other social media advertising offer a fast way to generate traffic. You can target a local audience with sponsored posts, video ads, and other advertising options.
Create Relevant Content for Your Local Audience
When creating content for Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and other social sites, make it relevant to local audiences. Some content can be more general and will apply to customers everywhere. Whenever possible, though, incorporate a local angle.
Video content is especially popular. You can incorporate video in Stories on Instagram and Facebook, as well as in livestreams. Don't overlook new features, such as IGTV, which lets you create longer videos for Instagram.
Repurposing content helps you get more leverage out of every blog post, video, or other content. For example, turn longer blog posts into social media content and reuse videos for different platforms.
Reach Local Customers With Google
Local marketing has become even more critical since the COVID-19 pandemic. However, trends like curbside pickup are likely to endure well into the future. It's often more convenient for customers to have their purchases waiting for them when they drive up. There are several ways Google helps businesses reach local customers.
Make Sure Your Listing is Current and Accurate
Marketing Land has listing management as the top element for local marketing success. For customers to find you on Google, you need an updated and accurate Google My Business listing. Additionally, claim your listings on other search engines and directories, such as Bing, Facebook, Apple Maps, and Yelp.
Display Location Extensions
Google has introduced a feature for advertisers using the Google Display Network who want to reach local customers. Location extensions make it easy to include your address and phone number in your ad without using up limited ad space. This information is automatically placed under your ad, informing local customers that you are close by.
Google Curbside Beta
In Spring 2020, Google launched Curbside Beta, a feature available to advertisers who use local inventory ads (LIAs) on Google Shopping. This beta is a way to alert shoppers that you offer this service. "Curbside Pickup" appears in bold letters above the ad to make it highly visible. Businesses must provide same-day or next-day pickup to be eligible for this type of ad.
Our specialty crafts client took advantage of this LIA curbside beta that helped Google store visits increase by 34% after whitelisting for it. Store visits increased even though online orders were declining. We deduced that more people going to the store with fewer online orders meant that, proportionally, the number of BOPIS or curbside pickup orders increased.
Use Google Local Campaigns
Through local campaigns, you can reach your potential customers by providing them with the essential details about your physical store locations. To get these campaigns set up, you need to provide Google with your budget, which stores you’d like to promote, and your ad assets. This information will allow Google’s machine learning technology to optimize your ads to drive in-store engagement. These ads can display in the following locations:
- Google Search Network
- Google Display Network
Local SEO Guidelines
There are quite a few factors you need to consider for local SEO.
- Make sure pages are responsive and mobile-friendly. More customers than ever are shopping on mobile devices.
- Localize title tags to include city and state names.
- Optimize meta descriptions beyond the brand name to include product categories.
- Implement localized schema markup for local business names, addresses, and phone numbers.
- Localize URL structures to show street names and product categories.
- Localize on-page business content to share hours, driving directions, and local descriptions.
Create Local Landing Pages
If your business has multiple locations, you should create a dedicated landing page for each location. This allows you to incorporate important local keywords that will help you rank for that location. You can further customize each landing page with photos of that location, the hours of operation, and any distinct features or services it offers. It's also essential to keep customers updated about special requirements due to COVID-19, such as wearing masks and social distancing.
Optimize for Voice Search
More customers are using devices like Alexa and other digital assistants when searching for businesses. Neil Patel gives some helpful tips on optimizing for voice search. Keep in mind that when people speak into devices, they tend to speak naturally rather than using traditional keywords. One of the best techniques for reaching this audience is to post a list of FAQs.
Reviews and Reputation Management
Online reviews have become a crucial aspect of local SEO. One study found that 76% of customers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations from friends and family. While positive reviews are essential for building your reputation and improving local SEO, negative reviews can do real damage.
- Monitor reviews constantly. Set alerts using Google Alerts or another reputation management tool, so you know when reviews appear.
- Respond to reviews. Thank customers who compliment you. Respond politely to criticism.
- Think of all channels where reviews are relevant, including Amazon
- When appropriate, reach out to customers off-site. You can resolve many issues by taking the time to talk to someone. You might offer dissatisfied customers a refund, replacement, or another solution.
Keep Up With the Latest Local Marketing Trends
The pandemic has accelerated many local marketing trends, such as curbside pickup, BOPIS, and shopping online. In all likelihood, customers will continue to demand such services even when the pandemic is over. Businesses need to pay close attention to the policies that make life more convenient for customers. Whether you're using paid ads or organic content, make sure that you keep up with the methods that help you attract local customers.