Consumers go online all the time to search for local businesses, but a study shows many retailers are not showing up on the major online services shoppers use. To be omnipresent, retailers need to connect their national brand-awareness advertising with local marketing strategies.

Brett House, senior vice president of growth, Synup

Brett House, senior vice president of growth, Synup

There’s been a lot of chatter about omnichannel marketing over the last few years, yet most of it misses the mark for retailers with multiple locations or service areas. One of the persistent challenges faced by these types of organizations is bridging the gap between their national (or global) and local-marketing strategies.

National advertising, while great for brand awareness building, does very little to help individual outlets acquire and retain customers in their local markets. Without being easily discoverable—in a consistent and engaging way—across the various media channels and devices available to local audiences, businesses have lost the omnichannel race before it even began.

Consumer behavior has changed, and business discovery and selection has changed along with it. People aren’t going to websites anymore for their local business needs, and the stats around local shopping on search engines are surprising. Google has noted that 46 percent of all searches on Google are seeking local information, and 97 percent of consumers have searched online to find a local business.

To be truly omnichannel, multiple-location retailers need to think and act locally.

But, it’s what consumers do after they perform the search that is interesting. Approximately 88 percent of consumers searching for local businesses on mobile devices want to take an action—like visiting a store—within 24 hours. And internal data suggested that consumers visit digital profiles across sites like Google, Bing, Waze and Facebook five times more than they do corporate websites. Think of the last time you visited a restaurant or retailer’s website; if you’re like most people, you rarely do this.

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Business profiles surface across a dizzying array of media channels including traditional search, voice search, social media, review sites, travel sites, maps and chat bots. Additionally, an overwhelming majority of searches today are mobile, and approximately 76 percent of smart speaker owners report searching locally every week.

Absent or inaccurate listings

Very few multi-location brands have adapted to these changes, and that failure to adapt means that local business franchisees can’t be found by in-market consumers. In fact, most businesses struggle to get even basic contact information (name, address, phone number) right across these various consumer discovery channels.

So what happens to that 88 percent that want to take an action after searching online for a local business, especially when important information is either missing or incorrect? They are frustrated, and the business misses out.

What’s the scale of the problem?  After analyzing nearly 600 stores across four big retail brands around the U.S., approximately 50 percent of their listings were missing from the 50 media channels people use most to find businesses (Google, Facebook, Bing, Foursquare, Yelp, etc.).

Every one of these inaccuracies represents a potential lost customer and lost revenue. When these local stores did appear on a site like Google, which owns the lion’s share of all online searches, they had a 52 percent error rate. That means that, even when they are present, their most basic contact information is largely inaccurate.

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This is a major problem that impacts bottom-line sales for multi-location brands around the world, and these challenges are largely consistent across industries including retail, banking and restaurants.

Think and act locally

To be truly omnichannel, multiple-location retailers need to think and act locally. Getting their basic business information right is a critical first step, but the bigger opportunity lies in their ability to meet the needs of customers who expect instant, relevant experiences in ways that have radically shifted in the last few years.

This goes beyond omnichannel into what is sometimes called “omnipresence.”  Being omnipresent requires a holistic approach to national brand awareness and local customer acquisition. Retailers with geo-distributed locations need to get at the heart of consumer intent by presenting more than just a correct address or phone number—that’s table stakes. They need to show engaging local content to a prospective buyer at the point of discovery—when purchase intent is at its highest. For example, this can be things like product recommendations or special promotions, customer reviews or videos.

Multi-location retailers want and need tighter controls over customer experience and the journey from discovery to the point of conversion. This requires connecting the dots between national advertising and local customer acquisition. It means retailers being in control of their own data and content (like local store inventory), and what the customer sees (or hears) when looking for that brand regardless of location, media or device. Without taking these steps, omnichannel marketing is simply another industry buzzword, rather than a strategy that can have a real impact on customer experiences and sales at the local level, where it matters most.

Synup provides services to help retailers and other businesses manage and optimize local content across devices and digital platforms.

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