It’s difficult to even hazard a guess as to how consumers will behave leading into and throughout the critical holiday shopping season. As we’ve learned throughout 2020, the state of affairs can change near-instantly. What is certain is that enterprise brands will face unique challenges in connecting with consumers at the local level and will need to pivot their local holiday marketing strategies as we near the holidays.
As Lauren Freedman mused recently in DigitalCommerce360, “It’s hard to predict which customer will show up this holiday season… For those that are working and whose families are in a strong financial position, perhaps it will be business as usual… At the same time, I see another type of shopper who tapers off her purchasing to reflect the more sober times.”
Whether shopping decreases this holiday season remains to be seen, however, one thing that is certain is consumers will continue to search for your brand despite the current pandemic. Over at Salesforce, analysts predict that up to 30% of global retail sales will be made through digital channels this upcoming holiday season. This analysis doesn’t mean that your brand needs to go e-commerce-only, though.
Last year, buying online and picking up in-store (BOPIS) had already caught on; in fact, sales conducted this way were up 35% over the 2018 holiday season. COVID-19 accelerated its adoption further, as evidenced by this analysis of over 800,000 transactions at the height of the lockdown showing that customers selected the BOPIS four times more than before the pandemic.
Here are 11 actionable local holiday marketing tips you can bank on, whatever this holiday season and COVID-19 have in store.
Focus on your e-commerce/BOPIS experience.
The global e-commerce market is expected to grow from $1,808.5 billion in 2019 to about $2,405.3 billion this year with rising internet penetration, the growing use of smartphones, and COVID-19 all playing a role in its growth.
In fact, Salesforce expects that sites offering store pickup (curbside, inside, drive-through) will see a 90% increase in digital sales over the previous holiday season. Enabling local customers to buy online and pick up in-store (BOPIS) gives those who wish to avoid stepping into retail spaces the comfort and reassurance of an online shopping experience while still allowing them to shop locally.
- Use Local Pages and Specialty Pages to improve your brand’s visibility in local search and deliver a seamless experience from search to sale. Specialty Pages are a great way to help customers find nearby locations that offer certain types of products or services. Learn more about how this strategy helped an enterprise pet retailer achieve a 42% lift in search volume and drive more traffic to its store locator in this case study.
- Revisit your local keywords strategy and make sure you’re optimizing pages using Schema Markup and listings with the social distancing keywords local consumers are using now to find BOPIS, drive-through, and other contactless service options.
- Optimize your pages for voice search. Shift to a conversational content style and add location-based terms to your content. Consider how and why customers are using voice search, too, as this can help you understand their intent. For example, voice searches conducted on a mobile device are 3 times more likely to have local intent than searches conducted using text. People may be searching for inspiration or comparison shopping from their phone or an in-home voice assistant. How easily can they navigate from that initial search to placing an order to pick up an item at your nearest store?
Prepare your local promotions strategy with COVID-19 in mind.
The Coronavirus pandemic has thrown a wrench into the enterprise planning wheel. How can your brand plan cohesive campaigns when COVID-19 cases could spike and public health guidelines may change at the drop of a hat?
For multi-location brands, having the technology and workflow to pivot quickly and distribute messaging as quickly as possible is key. You must be able and prepared to publish locally relevant promotions quickly and easily from the brand to locations grouped by region, state, city, etc.
- Get control of your local listings and ensure their accuracy across the brand. The last thing you’ll need is NAP (name, address, phone) or map pin errors hindering conversion or harming your local search rankings when you’re trying to get in front of motivated shoppers.
- Be thoughtful and cautious with in-store event planning. This year more than ever, brands are going to need to be able to distribute events information quickly and as widely as possible, as the window to promote may be shrinking. Where you might have planned to promote a door-crasher sale for 10 days ahead of the event in years past, that may prove too long a window to risk a potential cancellation due to COVID-19. Plan to use Google Posts, Events Schema, email marketing, paid advertising and any other channels in tandem to communicate local promotions and events.
- If you do need to cancel an event, use SpecialAnnouncement schema to mark that information up for rich search results.
Bring together your local marketing Dream Team.
According to Forrester, 77% of enterprise marketers surveyed this year still said they find executing a localized marketing strategy across all of their locations challenging. With so much uncertainty heading into the holiday season, it is mission-critical that your local marketing team has the experience, knowledge, and perspective to inform and make decisions on the fly.
Engaging an enterprise local search partner can help. As Zeek Thomas, a strategist with MediaHub, explains: “When I joined Mediahub, Rio SEO was already in place as the local search partner for the Wyndham brand. Walking into a local search setup where everything we need to collect and interpret our data for over 100,000 locations within a single platform was massive. We have access to a full team of proactive, passionate local search experts, which is huge when challenges and questions inevitably come up.”
- Update your review management strategy and prepare for a possible increase in review volume. You might experience a period of paused reviews, as we saw this spring. Or, you could have an influx of a certain type of review—on your locations’ social distancing practices, for example, or about temporarily closed locations. Update your pre-approved response templates, assign team members tasked with responding, and make sure your triage and escalation expectations are clear. Learn more in How to Pivot Your Local Reviews Management Strategy in a Crisis.
- Equip your team with the technology needed to manage listings, reviews, and pages at scale. Multi-location retail brands must have both a high-level view across the brand and the ability to get granular and segmented. Notifications to new reviews and potentially problematic listings issues are critical, as are permissions and data governance.
- Augment in-house expertise with focused, specialized local search talent. Working with the right enterprise local search partner ensures that you have access to the skill, knowledge, and experience of a large team without having to build and fund that yourself in-house.
4. Use all GMB features and attributes available to provide a single source of truth.
Google aims to be the single source of truth for local businesses and as such, curates a great deal of local business data from multiple sources. If you are not actively monitoring and managing this information, misinformation can put a serious damper on your customer experience before they ever have a chance to visit a local store.
Google My Business provides a number of optimization opportunities in the various fields and features available to all businesses. Your business name, hours of operation (see also: Special Hours), map pin and address, and website or local landing page URL are all important information. But so too are interior and exterior photos, your long business description, Q&A, and other fields. In fact, the primary category you choose can open the door to another host of fields called GMB Attributes that enable you to provide specific types of information depending on what customers expect to see from your type of business.
- Complete and optimize all available fields in your locations’ GMB listings. An enterprise local search partner can help multi-location brands manage this task without it overwhelming your marketing team. See this infographic to learn more about your GMB profile.
- Get to know the GMB Attributes available to retail brands. Attributes provide important local data in a standardized way, so customers can see at a glance which locations offer the features and options that mean the most to them. Credit cards accepted, in-store shopping, same-day delivery, and curbside pickup are just a few of the GMB Attributes in retail—learn more here.
Looking for more advice and assistance in preparing for the 2020 holiday shopping season?
- Click here to check out our always-expanding collection of webinars, third-party updates, blog posts, and other resources for enterprise brands affected by COVID-19
- Take advantage of a Free Custom Local Search Audit today to see how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted your brand’s local online presence
- Learn more about enterprise local marketing solutions for retail brands like yours