Retailers have used signage, billboards, newspapers, magazines, vehicles, buildings, radio, TV – just about every means imaginable to market their products and services. But never have we seen retail marketing spread exponentially in different directions since the advent of the Internet and the proliferation of computers, laptops, tablets and smartphones.
In fact, the Internet and search engines have changed the nature of retail marketing forever. And that’s good news for retailers.
What can retailers do to take full advantage of Internet marketing?
Here are three marketing strategies that, when combined, can give you enhanced visibility in search engines and more traffic to convert to sales: optimize for local search, the mobile Web and organic search listings.
1. Reach Consumers Through Local Search
PEW Internet conducted a survey of 1,087 adults on local business and search engines in December 2010. Below are some of the findings.
When viewing the numbers, note that respondents could fill in more than one option. All were asked where they get news and information about local businesses (other than restaurants and bars).
- 47% said they relied mostly on the Internet for local information
- 36% rely on search engines
- 31% rely mostly on newspapers
- 22% rely on word of mouth from friends and family
- 8% rely on local TV
- 5% rely on local radio
The takeaway from this research is that you need to market to every local search site on the Web −sites like Google Places (maps), Yelp (reviews), Internet Yellow Pages (business listings), City Search and a number of other key business information aggregators.
There are three primary Information Services for retailers on the Web: Info USA, Acxiom and Localeze. When feeding your business information to these services, you must ensure that all the data is optimized for each service and that the information is consistent.
If the information varies, it won’t help your local search listings as much as when all the information matches. Your business information includes the company name, address, local phone number, map directions, optimized images, rich media, coupons, social sharing, reviews and more.
2. Reach Consumers Through The Mobile Web
We know more consumers will access the Internet by mobile devices than by desktops and laptops by 2013. With over 300 million smartphones in the U.S., consumers are ready for mobile content.
Mary Meeker of Morgan Stanley also estimated mobile commerce will account for approximately 2 percent of U.S. retail sales by late 2012, while Internet retail will account for 5 to 6 percent. We could have a fast rise in U.S. mobile commerce similar to what happened in Japan where leading retailers were getting 19 percent of their sales from mobile devices back in 2009.
Consumers are moving toward tablets and smartphones for every kind of personal task, from banking to shopping, because of the ease, convenience and time savings.
Therefore, it’s not surprising that the retailers who handle mobile inquiries and sales expeditiously will be those that prosper. Hence, my oft repeated recommendation to use mobile storefront software that automatically builds an entire mobile Web-formatted store locator, while providing data fidelity between the Bots, Information Services and IYPs.
3. Reach Consumers Through Organic Listings
Another strategy retailers can use to compete more effectively is to optimize for organic listings. While not all retailers are optimized for the mobile Web, many also fail to optimize for organic listings.
Optimized static location pages for every business location, in addition to optimized city and state web pages will increase your digital footprint and retail visibility. The SEO elements to apply include:
- Local Title tags
- Local Description tags
- Keyword Meta tags
- Locally optimized content
- Local keyword anchor text
- Locally optimized ALT tags for images
- Headline tags (H1, H2)
- Localized body content
- Schema.org Microdata mark-up
- Semantic RDFa and Facebook OpenGraph tags
- Localized Mapping and Reviews feed
- Local links to Places and Maps (Google, Bing, Yahoo, Facebook, Yelp and more)
- Optimized bulk feeds to IYP and Local Search Engines for relevant consistency
From Zero To 500,000+ MUVs In Local, Mobile & Organic Search
MUVs (Monthly Unique Visitors) are the lifeblood of new business year over year. Every business buys MUVs in the form of print advertising, paid search advertising, search engine optimization, direct mail, TV and radio advertising, affiliates and other forms of marketing and advertising.
Multi-location businesses operating physical storefront locations in hundreds and thousands of cities have a unique value proposition and some very serious hurdles to overcome quickly if they want to stay ahead of the competition.
Businesses in retail, services, financial, real estate, dealerships, franchises, manufacturers, medical and legal directories must get control of their Web and mobile Web data.
Google, Bing and Yahoo! love to consume accurate, updated, verified business data, and these engines are rewarding those businesses that optimize their data at the local store level. I call it a relevancy reward. If you publish the most accurate data in a way the engines can consume it… you will grow significantly more and more MUVs.
Local, organic and mobile Web searchers expect to find accurate, updated business information on the go, and they reward such businesses with phone calls, walk-in traffic, coupon redemptions, rich media views, social shares, check-ins and clicks to shopping.
Manufacturers with dealerships nationwide, e.g., windows, carpets, power tools, bikes, motor vehicles, etc., all have this unique opportunity to provide the search engines with their most recent, updated business information at the location level.
The same thing goes for services like “credit repair,” servicing the entire U.S. geographic population down to the neighborhood level. Franchises with physical storefront locations in various city locations. Insurance companies with thousands of individual agents at different office locations.
Building materials stores like Home Depot, Ace Hardware, Lowes, etc. Electronics and computers stores like Frye’s and Best Buy − they all stand to gain by providing search engines with recent, updated business information at the local level.
Build and optimize a location landing page for each individual location. Make sure to arrange for the instant publication of any changes on the Web and mobile Web with consistency and accuracy.
- Edit Operating Hours as needed
- Holiday hours
- Manage Coupons
- National, Regional, Local
- Manage Local Pictures/Images
- Storefront Locations, Managers, Employee of the Month
- Monitor and update Social Networks via analytics data
- Text to phone promotions
- Add local Call to Action
Include a breadcrumb for all the state, city and location landing pages. Link each location landing page with all social links from CitySearch, Yelp and others. Ensure that you take the time to optimize your business data and bulk feed to the Information Services: Info USA, Localeze and Acqiom, as well as all the IYPs (Internet Yellow Pages etc.).
In closing, a bit of good news: comScore just reported $50 billion in U.S. retail ecommerce spending during the last quarter, up 14 percent vs. 2010. Online retailers sold almost $50 billion worth of goods to U.S. consumers in the last quarter. That made it a solid year, as 2011 ecommerce sales increased 13 percent over 2010 for a record $161.5 billion in sales.
The future could be promising for retailers, and it will be more so for those that optimize for local search, the mobile Web and organic listings.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.