Rio SEO and Forsta recently analyzed Google Business Profile Insights across 64,000 U.S. retailer’s locations to gain a holistic understanding of the macroeconomic, health, and other external factors that may have impacted retailer’s local marketing performance the first half of 2022. Through exploring these findings, retail businesses will have more transparency into how their performance compares to other similar national retailers throughout the first half of 2022, as well as forecast what search trends to anticipate for the end of the year.
For each retail location, we tracked the following:
- Local organic search volume
- Local search (Map Pack) views
- Clicks on a MapPack listing
- Clicks to a website
- Clicks to make a phone call
- Clicks for driving directions
Recently, we were joined by a great webinar panel of experts, who both have in-depth experience working closely with some of the largest global retail brands, to dive deeper into our State of Retail 2022 whitepaper. Our panelists also addressed how creating a rewarding customer experience ties to boosted sales. Panelists included Howard L. Lax, PhD, Principal Consultant at Forsta and Ryan Weber, Director of Customer Success at Rio SEO.
Here are some of the top highlights they shared from the webinar and the whitepaper.
Conversions for clicks for driving directions continue to rebound
Total clicks reflect the volume of all conversion actions tracked in Google Business Profile insights including clicks for directions, to the website, and to call the location. From this data, unsurprisingly, conversions from search dropped after the holidays, reaching a low in February. Clicks for directions grew throughout H1. Clicks to the website and clicks to call, however, remained relatively stable and trended together.
The marketplace remains unprecedented. Job creation outpacing years prior, low unemployment rates, as well as pent up demand for goods simultaneously matched with supply chain disruptions continue to cause both disruption and frustration for consumers. Yet despite these challenges, each of the click types we study didn’t experience concerning fluctuations. The most notable fluctuations occurred post-holidays, which is typical in both a pre- and post-pandemic world.
Local retail listing impressions continue to see impressive growth
We saw much greater fluctuations when looking at search data compared to conversion data. Local searches fell 20% following the holidays. In April we saw a rebound as retail sales in the U.S. rose 0.9% despite universally climbing prices for groceries, gas, and goods. The reason for the rebound in April may be due to early spring sales and other seasonal trends, notes our panel. Additionally, holiday-fatigue typically wears by the spring months, as consumers are ready to spend again.
A change in weather too can encourage or discourage buying behavior. As the winter months conclude and summer is on the horizon, shoppers start stocking up on spring essentials, according to analysis from Bazaarvoice compiled from shopper behavior on the company’s network of 5,700+ brand and retailer websites. St. Patrick’s Day, Easter, and Mother’s Day were also found to be sales drivers according to the same analysis.
Retailers typically sees slower sales in January
January saw sharp declines month-over-month across all metrics we measure. This comes as no surprise right on the heels of peak shopping season. As we saw in our January figures, seasonality is a huge driver this month, making it difficult to surpass December’s local marketing success.
Year-over-year, however, we can see impressive growth. Thinking back to January 2021, the economy and health concerns were in a drastically different state. Many preferred e-commerce, curbside pickup, and other socially-distanced services. Total retail sales in January 2022 were up nearly 13% compared to last year, according to Forbes. Breaking out retail even further, apparel and accessories, food services and department stores showed a significant bounce back from January 2021 with sales up 22.3%, 27.9% and 11.5% respectively.
February and March declines align with rising inflation
By the time February 2022 came, the consumer price index rose 7.9% from February 2021. By March, consumer prices for food increased 8.8%, the largest 12-month advance since May 1981. Diving deeper into the food category, prices for food at home rose 10% and prices for food away from home rose 6.9%. With necessities such as food and gas taking priority, consumers’ pockets had little to spare for non-essential goods.
Inflation is largely tied toward the declines seen at the start of 2022, as well as the War on Ukraine. On both a national and global level, to this date the economy continues to be weakened by the war through disruptions in trade, shipping, price shocks. All these factors contribute towards higher inflation, tightening discretionary spend, and heightened fears.
June’s drops in clicks to call and clicks to website point towards shopping preferences evolving
Jumping ahead to June and the conclusion of our research, we see retailers’ local marketing metrics metrics stayed strong in April and May only dip once again in June 2022. Most notably, we saw clicks to call drop 8.8% month-over month and 13.32% year-over-year. Clicks to website too were down 8.47% month-over-month and 5.42% year-over-year.
As our panelists note, clicks for directions are a strong indication of consumer interest. The average share of internet users who made purchases online increased from 53% before the pandemic (2019) to 60% following the onset of the pandemic (2020/21). In 2022, from our own research, we found 42% of local consumers prefer a mixture of shopping in-person and online. Consumers are clicking for directions with the intent to engage with businesses in-person. Their informational needs are being met and, in turn, are no longer needing to call a business or check its website to find more information such as store hours, services, and more.
Customer experience drives value
If our findings taught us anything, it’s consumer behavior trends are fickle and fleeting. They’re also unpredictable, even the savviest economists and analysts alike can;t pinpoint what will happen tomorrow that will cause a ripple effect in consumerism. No one knew the devastation and significant impact COVID-19 would have, for example.
What a business can perfect and prepare is how it drives value with its customers. Customer experience (CX) is a business strategy that drives value. By focusing on how the customer engages with a business from initial search to beyond the sale, businesses create more positive experiences. Positive customer experiences lead to a 20% higher customer satisfaction rate. Businesses benefit too from increased share of wallet, new cross- and up-sell opportunities, improved customer acquisition, and reduced churn by identifying and taking action to save at-risk customers.
Through our own research, we’ve found customer experience has a direct impact on increased average spend, recency, and frequency.
Customers with the best experience on average:
- Spend $112
- Visit the business again within 32 days
- 76% will visit the business again next month
Alternately, customers with the worst experience on average:
- Spend $34
- Visit the business again within 72 days
- 34% will visit the business again next month
Download the whitepaper here. Or, watch the webinar on-demand now.