More than ever, people want to feel connected. The past few years have felt isolating for many, and, in turn, consumers crave more and more personal connection and a sense of community in all their interactions. Throughout the local consumers’ decision-making process, your brand has myriad opportunities to make an authentic emotional connection that converts online community members into loyal customers. This happens with the right local customer engagement building strategies in place.
The work isn’t over once you can count that person among your customers. Competition is fierce, and brand loyalty is no longer a given. Recent research into Gen Z shopping habits, for example, found that 57% are less loyal to brands than before the pandemic, and just 38% will allow a brand a second chance before switching to a competitor if they’re unhappy.
Keeping up a dialogue with customers and continuously earning their trust is no small feat – but these are relationships worth protecting. In this article, you’ll find proven local customer engagement strategies and tactics brands like yours use to stay in front of and engage customers in search engine results and on social media platforms.
Why is customer engagement marketing so important?
Customer loyalty can have a substantial impact on your bottom line. Increasing customer retention rates by 5% can increase profits by 25% to 95%, according to HBR and Bain & Company. Another recent report found that companies that invest in digital customer engagement as part of their marketing strategy reported a 70% increase in revenue.
Customer engagement marketing can help lower costs, too. According to Yelp, “Since it costs 6-7 times more to attract new customers than to keep existing customers, keeping brand loyalty high allows you to avoid the expensive struggle of constant churn, lead generation, and onboarding.”
Beyond the obvious financial benefits, nurturing ongoing relationships with existing customers can drive immeasurable word-of-mouth marketing and goodwill around your brand. Your most loyal customers become brand advocates, sharing their positive experiences and impression of your brand with others. In our most recent Local Consumer Search Behavior Study, Rio SEO found that 73% of local consumers had posted a photo to a local business’s online profile or in a review within the last month. Moreover, 60% said they read 4-10 online reviews before visiting a local business.
Potential customers want to know what it’s like doing business with your brand, and they don’t only want to hear it from you. Customer engagement marketing helps provide essential social proof prospective customers crave. Here are seven engagement tactics you can put to work across the brand to activate your most loyal customers and turn them into advocates for your brand.
1. Listen to customer feedback and put insights to work.
Active listening across all major and industry-specific review sites as well as on customer service channels is essential for two important reasons.
First, this is the real-time voice of your customer. Review monitoring and quick intervention can turn around a potentially negative customer experience and prevent a poor review. Having new review alerts and a process for triage in place means you can quickly intervene, get that customer to the right person, and correct the course, converting that customer to a loyal brand advocate. Most consumers expect a response within 24 hours when they reach out to a brand via reviews or channels such as Google Business Profile Messaging. Consider, are your locations equipped to deliver?
Second, reviews and support channels are rich sources of customer data. Enterprise brands must be able to spot issues at the local level but can also benefit from the regional and brand-wide trends and insights available in this aggregate data. These insights can help fuel new product/service development, uncover new opportunities, and point to evolving customer needs you’d do well to stay ahead of.
2. Create and promote valuable content.
Every local search interaction is a value exchange. When the searcher sees your business listing and gives it their attention, what value are they offered in return?
Google Posts are a great way to give local searchers various options to interact and engage with compelling content. Create locally relevant offers and deals, promote interesting blog posts, invite customers to upcoming local events, or share photo carousels that highlight an experience they could have with your brand. Download your free Google Posts 101 playbook for more innovative ideas on putting Post content to work for your brand.
Photos and videos are another massive opportunity for brands to showcase visually appealing, interesting content on local listings. Empower local managers with permission-based publishing tools that enable them to share content about their employees, local events and promotions, local decor or merchandising, and more.
3. Weave community context into business listings and profiles.
Hyperlocal content helps local consumers and search engines alike understand your brand’s place in the local community. Claiming and verifying ownership of all business location profiles is an important first step. Nearly three-quarters (74%) of consumers said they frequently use Google Search/Maps to find information about businesses in their area, according to a recent study conducted by Rio SEO. Google is a great first place to start. From there, you have an opportunity to improve the relevance of each of your business listings and local pages by speaking directly to consumers in that market with engaging content.
Mention local service organizations you support. Explain how to reach your location with the context of important landmarks in the area, such as cross-streets, nearby stores, and more to guide searchers in-store. Share local customer stories and embed reviews in local pages so searchers can hear from real, local customers about the experiences they’re having.
You can use local schema to help search engines better understand all of this local relevance, as well.
4. Maximize your local business listings.
Effective local business listings are accurate, complete, and optimized to rank for relevant local searches. Brand searches are one thing, but how do your listings perform when searchers are looking for products or services like yours? Optimizing business listings for these unbranded searches is essential for being discovered by highly motivated customers who’ve not yet chosen a brand.
It’s also important that you take advantage of all possible fields in your business listings, too. Google itself provides helpful tips about photo sharing, for example. Writing a full, comprehensive description and augmenting that with professional photos and videos helps prospective customers understand the experience they might have at that location.
Google Business Profile attributes are another optimization you don’t want to miss out on. The attributes available to your listings depend on your industry. For example, the attributes for financial services differ from those available to restaurants.
5. Reward your most engaged audience.
Brands often offer deals and promotions for new customers, but how do you show appreciation to those who’ve been with you the longest and spend the most? Customer loyalty rewards are a great way to improve customer retention, boost revenue, and provide exceptional local experiences that drive positive word-of-mouth recommendations.
Rewards don’t have to include discounts (although they can be part of the program mix). You might offer early access to new products and services, host exclusive local events, provide premium content, give upgrades and perks, and more.
Make your loyalty rewards programs and special offers highly visible by featuring them on local pages and in Google Posts. Using a local marketing technology platform, you can easily change up these offers and distribute them to pages and profiles across the brand.
6. Make the most of UGC.
User-generated content is particularly compelling as it gives prospective customers an authentic look at the experiences others are having with the brand. It’s also a more organic and less self-serving promotional tool for your brand. This social proof helps reinforce to the consumer that they’re making the right choice in choosing to do business with you, as well.
According to Charles Schwab, nearly half of millennials spend money on experiences as a direct result of their friends’ social media posts. You can extend the reach of that content even further by repurposing it and displaying it on local pages, in photos on local business listings, and in Google Posts.
Enterprise brands can support local stakeholders with customer engagement marketing campaigns at the regional or national level. This can produce a great volume of UGC that can then be shared across the brand and used at the local level, where searchers are looking to engage.
7. Have the technology in place to be responsive even when staff is offline.
Most consumers expect a response from a brand they’ve engaged with in an email, Google Message, online review, or other communication to respond within 24 hours. There are a few steps brands can take to improve responsiveness without staffing every channel around the clock.
First, determine which channels can be converted to self-service using chatbots or autoresponders. If your brand gets a lot of email inquiries, it could be worth offering a chatbot on the corporate site to help users more easily navigate to relevant content and get the answers they need. For example, you could program the chatbot to recognize questions and queries with local intent and offer the searcher a link to your dynamic store locator. That would help them take a seamless next step to the local page of the location nearest them.
Next, make sure you have a technology solution for monitoring and managing local reviews across all major sites and niche platforms. You should be able to set alerts for new reviews, assign specific people for triage and response, escalate reviews to the appropriate person, analyze review sentiment and response times, and more. Manual review monitoring just doesn’t make sense at scale. Leaving it up to each location can result in customers falling through the cracks and an inconsistent local experience for customers across the brand.
Engagement is the process of creating a relationship between two parties. To create a successful customer experience, it’s important to understand how each interaction impacts the overall customer journey. By focusing on your customers’ experience, you can improve retention rates, increase sales conversions, build loyalty, and drive new business, too.
It may seem like a Herculean feat, but enterprise brands must consider customer experience all the way from the big picture to each person’s interactions with the brand in every channel and location. How does your brand appear to motivated consumers at the local level? Take advantage of a free local search presence audit and find out more.