30 Aug Local search and the retail customer journey
The retail market is evolving faster than ever as customers turn increasingly to online channels to research, compare, and purchase products and services. Brick and mortar retailers are seeing less action, with just 2% growth in the first half of 2016, while online experienced a 16% increase (Business Insider). In the face of such an unprecedented digital transformation, businesses must adapt in order to survive.
To keep up with changing consumer behaviors and win in today’s digital landscape, retailers must incorporate local search into their online marketing strategies to show up high in search results at every stage of the buyer journey and win over connected customers. This involves a strategy for both managing and marketing your business in search results.
Multiple purchase points
The customer journey is no longer a linear path driving consumers to singular purchases. Today’s customer journey is longer and comprised of more complex steps, and retailers are not just selling their products on their website, but also on third-party distribution sites like Amazon, Walmart and Alibaba. Businesses must establish a strong presence at all 5 stages of the buyer journey in order to stay top of mind and establish strong customer relationships.
For businesses, focusing marketing efforts only on the transaction stage can limit your access to potential new customers and give your competitors a chance to build their presence and earn the advantage. Before the “I want to buy” and “I want to go” moments are the “I want to know” and “I want to compare” moments — this is where search engines come in: 71% of retail searches happen on the top search engines, compared to just 29% on Amazon (comScore qSearch). What customers find in search results determines where they go next. When a shopper is exposed to a branded ad for consumer packaged goods (CPG), the shopper is 2 to 5 times more likely to visit that brand’s product page on a retail marketplace such as Amazon (Bing). What does this mean? Marketplace advertising is powerful, but only if the customer can find it. Retailers selling products on sites like Amazon need marketing initiatives in place to guide customers from the initial search to the product page where the action happens.
Top and mid-funnel searches happen mostly on search engines. Often consumers begin searching without a specific brand in mind. They are not ready to buy immediately; they want to do extensive research to compare all options before deciding. Search engines are intelligent resources guiding consumers from one step to the next with hyper-relevant information.
Search engines lead to dynamic customer engagement at the critical early stages of the buyer journey. Showing up at the very beginning of the consumer decision journey increases brand awareness and conversions on other online channels. When creating search engine advertising content, consider what questions your customers have when in need of your product or service. Ask yourself, what problems are you solving? Then gear content towards building awareness around your solution.
Ads, landing pages and blog posts aren’t the only forms of content that drive conversions. In fact, the most powerful advertising content is written by customers themselves: online reviews provide a huge search ranking boost, and 88% of customers trust reviews as much as personal recommendations (BrightLocal). An ad might drive your customer to research your brand specifically, and reviews can convince them to purchase from you over a competitor. Customers might even be physically in your store but hesitant to buy before reading testimonials from other customers.
Tips for leveraging search across all stages of the buyer journey
- Strategically position your content around keywords that help answer common shopper questions. Your content should demonstrate clearly how your products solve real-life issues.
- Keep your business listings consistent across all consumer sites and business directories to boost SEO and make it easy for customers to find, contact or visit you. A tool like BirdEye’s Online Presence can help you fix your business listings across 70+ sites automatically.
- Enhance your listings with photos, descriptions and customer reviews. Use a feature like Google Posts to add clickable purchase buttons. BirdEye even creates a custom business microsite for each of your locations, displaying that location’s best reviews from 200+ sites, up-to-date business information, and photos. This site is optimized for SEO, and the fresh stream of rich content from new reviews helps push it to page 1 of search results.
- Leverage User Generated Content like online reviews. Promote customer testimonials to your social channels, display them on your company website, and leverage star ratings in the form of Google Seller Ratings to make your ads stand out in search results. Reviews can lead customers to research your products further, or give them that extra push when in-store. BirdEye’s Review Marketing tool lets you automatically promote your best reviews to your company website, social channels and search engines.
- Use social media channels to provide customer support and post helpful content targeted at frequently asked customer questions, driving traffic to your blog and help center. Posting regularly to social can be challenging. Make it easier with a tool like BirdEye’s Social Publishing, which lets you post to multiple channels at once, and schedule posts beforehand for automatic future publication.
Cross-channel marketing initiatives are the key to success in today’s connected consumer world. Use traditional methods as a supplement to next-generation search engine marketing, and create frictionless online-to-offline experiences that turn online searches into sales. Learn how you can supercharge your search engine marketing with customer feedback easily and automatically.
For more on this topic, check out our whitepaper, Customer Experience Management for the Retail Industry.