How can you stand out locally online to drive customers into your stores? It is without a doubt the most pressing challenge facing retailers. This is because now, constantly connected consumers demand fast, frictionless shopping assistance in their moments of need. We had a chance to really dig into the topic and surface solutions that could really help you move the needle in your holiday sales, in our recent “Clicks to Bricks: Using Events to Drive In-Store Sales” webinar.

Clicks to Bricks

Clicks to Bricks: Using Events to Drive In-Store Sales, a webinar by Rio SEO

The talented and knowledgeable Asif Khan, founder of the Location Based Marketing Association, hosted the webinar. We were joined by John Thielmann, local retail marketing expert and Director of Digital Media The Bon-Ton Stores, Inc.

Together, we shared actionable solutions for that modern-day retail conundrum of turning online eyes into in-store foot traffic. Here we share a few of the highlights to help you prepare for a busy holiday retail season. The goal? To get your local marketing presence in better shape for the new year.

What’s New in Local Retail?

Thousands of marketing issues compete for your attention (and budget) at any given time. This is especially true in the lead up to the holidays. How do you know where to focus for the greatest impact? Asif kicked off our webinar with insights from the LBMA 2017 Global Location Trends Report to help attendees better understand the local opportunity. His organization recently surveyed 500 marketing decision makers in an effort to better quantify the value of localization and targeting for multi-location brands.

Their findings include that 85% of all data generated by consumer activity online and on their connected devices has a location element. Never before have we had such insight into exactly what the consumers in our local areas are searching for, in need of and trying to find.

A Look at the Numbers

CMOs and heads of digital marketing see this opportunity and are getting in the game. Today, 72% of marketers are using location data in their campaigns. Similarly, the spend in technology and infrastructure to support this massive amount of data is expected to reach $52.2 billion in location & context services by 2019. What’s more, another $32.4 billion will be spent in geo-targeted ad sales by 2021.

The Location Based Marketing Association

The Location Based Marketing Association surveyed CMOs and marketing directors about the features of location-based marketing they find most beneficial.

The abilities to target, drive sales at point-of-sale, and drive foot traffic into stores are among the most beneficial features of location-based marketing.

There’s an interesting conundrum here in how U.S. marketers feel about the data available to them for location-based ad targeting. It’s valuable to 78% and actionable to 76%, but only 68% believe it’s accurate.

Who cleans your location data to make it trustworthy and useful, both to consumers and search engines? Every day, our Local Listings accurately syndicates location data for thousands of retail locations, so customers get just the information they need, exactly when they need it. You can learn more about cleaning your data here.

The 3-Layer Cake Approach

How can you build a wider investment thesis with the variety of location-enabled technologies out there? The first layer of the cake, Asif explained, is all about getting people to hear your messaging in the first place. You need that foundation to build your in-store promotions tactics on and only then can you hone in on one of the most effective transactional techniques. Asif calls this his 3-Layer Cake Approach, and you can read more about how it works here.


The Location Based Marketing Association takes a layered approach to converting online traffic to in-store visits.

Asif’s Key Takeaways & Trends to Watch in Local Retail:


  1. Image & voice search are on the rise. Here are a few ways to stay ahead of the opportunities they present.
  2. We have volume in data. Now, realize its full potential by ensuring that your location data is accurate across the ecosystem. Why? Local listings accuracy is the key to both search visibility and user experience. See the difference it made for this retailer with over 1,000 U.S. locations, who saw their sessions grow by 41%, new user sessions by 45%, and session duration by 18% YOY.
  3. Physical Re-Targeting
  4. Social location services, location-based advertising, the Internet of Things and location analytics are all on marketers’ minds. Download the LBMA 2017 Global Location Trends Report to learn more.

How Do Multi-Location Retailers Leverage Local?

Next up, John Thielmann shared with us a few of the behind-the-scenes ways The Bon-Ton’s stores are pulling off incredibly successful in-store promotions. A department store chain with 267 stores in 26 stores, The Bon-Ton came to Rio SEO for assistance in increasing the online discoverability of each of its locations to drive more traffic in-store.

drive online traffic into retail stores

John Thielmann on planning and promoting exceptional in-store events to drive online traffic into retail stores, from the recent Clicks to Bricks: Using Events to Drive In-Store Sales webinar.

Events can be powerful in-store drivers. But, John clarifies, only if the proper collaboration and planning takes place. First, and most importantly, you need to make sure you have your search fundamentals in place. This means leveraging structured data and implementing schema markup. Ensuring that your store hours, name, address and phone number are correct across the entire search ecosystem and optimizing your content for discoverability across platforms and devices.

Think Mobile-First

In order to leverage the local + mobile first platform correctly, John recommended that you start out from a place of understanding how your customers will use your local content. Reducing friction and making it easy for them to engage is key.

What does this look like in practice? For starters, coordinate with your PR & Special events teams and get the event details right. Evangelize local search and teach your key internal stakeholders the importance of a cohesive, accurate presence for all events listings, across locations.

Santa Fest

An example of rich, engaging hyperlocal content designed to resonate with specific online audiences and drive them into local stores, from the recent Clicks to Bricks: Using Events to Drive In-Store Sales webinar.

John recommended promoting event content in a mobile-first application. People are busy; they want the right information in a format they can quickly digest. Showcase in-store events, VIP events, and holiday events (like The Bon-Ton’s Santa Fest, a promotion for which is pictured above) in a timely way.

Link Online with In-Store Activity

Buy-online-pickup-in-store (BOPIS) events are a great way to drive in-store traffic and nurture those relationships that really drive great value over time. You can promote that you have reserved parking spots for these guests and use other incentives to show appreciation and generate loyalty. Of course, these perks are intriguing to anyone who comes across them in your targeted ad campaigns and the optimized, hyperlocal content you create gives search engines quality, geo-specific content to consider when evaluating location-specific queries.

Finally, John said, you must track, measure and share your results. Track data on page visits, phone calls and tag banners for click-through action/revenue allocation online, as it’s not only about the in-store value of these events. Track the performance of your VIP events and understand which customers showed up to buy. Share these results and your insights on local search to get buy-in across departments. Then, encourage your teammates to give you more event info to promote. Be sure to ask for feedback, and always keep trying and testing to improve performance on an ongoing basis.

Key Takeaways for Successful In-Store Event Promotion

  1. Promote in-store events to hyper-focused local audiences using targeted audiences in Facebook Ads. Deliver your audience to a rich, compelling local landing page to seal the deal and boost conversions to in-store.
  2. Make sure you’ve covered your local search presence basics to give events the best chance at success. Inaccurate store hours or driving directions due to outdated, incorrect listings turns that successfully targeted promotion into a poor user experience.
  3. Track and measure what matters, which goes way beyond coupons redeemed or day-of-event purchases. Understand the value of your events in improving your search visibility, loyalty and online reputation, as well.

Bringing It All Together to Drive Search to Sales

Shoppers are visiting stores with greater intent than ever before, and modern audience preferences have forever changed the way we search. Mobile searches for “where to buy” grew over 85% in the past 2 years, with super specific queries like “where to buy ugly Christmas sweater” generating a ton of new, longtail queries and opportunities for local businesses.

 Cynthia Sener

Rio SEO’s Cynthia Sener on how brands can support the local marketing efforts of retail locations and franchisees, from the Clicks to Bricks: Using Events to Drive In-Store Sales webinar.

When shoppers are ready to purchase, they want shopping assistance that is fast and frictionless—whether it’s online or in-store. Mobile searches for “store hours,” for example, peaked on Christmas Day. It’s the most popular day of the year for that search. It’s when shoppers hunt for last-minute items and their final dinner ingredients. Top searches included: “what stores are open near me on Christmas,” “what stores are open right now,” and “what grocery stores are open on Christmas?”

To get in front of these motivated shoppers with clear, expressed needs, you need to make your messaging relevant. Moreover, you have to make it matter. Look to Millennials and Gen Z buyers as representative of the future for retail stores. They’re looking for a more personalized shopping experience with every transaction, and won’t settle for anything less. Consumers are more curious, demanding, and impatient than ever. Marketers must be ready to capture their attention with the quick level of assistance they crave.

Make Your Messaging Relevant

Our challenge as marketers and data experts is this: How do we deliver only the relevant content that matters? But how do we also give that extra bit to get people in stores to close the sale?

Keep consumers motivated and aware of your local events during those critical mobile searches. Collect and publish timely content. These include event details, service hours and on-site promotion across hundreds or even thousands of locations from one simple location-editor dashboard. Finally, align your brand promotions with corporate approved content, and convert online searchers to on-site shoppers.

It’s a lot to take in. However, these transactions happening at the local level truly are your brand’s bread and butter. Your promotions can only be as effective as your ability to help consumers find and engage with your local stores.

The Multi-Location Retailer’s Local Marketing Holiday Checklist

Location Drop Icon

Ready to get started? If so, work your way through our 4-point Multi-Location Retailer’s Local Marketing Holiday Checklist. Then, dig into the full Clicks to Bricks: Using Events to Drive In-Store Sales webinar recording (see the link below) to take your online-to-offline local strategy to the next level.

  1. Create local landing pages for each store or service area. You can’t solve immediate needs for the local client without local landing pages. You just won’t be showing up in the local queries you want.
  2. Incorporate important local details and implement timely changes at scale. Different directories and search engines take information in a different cadence. Therefore, you need to make sure critical information about your promotions, events, products and services, coupons, store hours and more are being pushed out at scale.
  3. Engage shoppers by adding hyper-local content and integrated social reviews to landing pages. Focus on getting customers in-store and interacting with your brand, and the transactions will follow.
  4. Finally, optimize everything possible in your Google My Business profile:

In summary: it always comes back to local.

Integrate local content into your digital plan. Then, make sure your team understands that ongoing local hygiene is mandatory. Finally, follow the customer journey and know what converts to drive your local content creation. The omni-presence of e-commerce and comparison shopping even in-store means you can’t afford to stop at getting people in the door.

So, want to keep learning? Grab a coffee and a comfortable seat.

Watch Clicks to Bricks: Using Events to Drive In-Store Sales now. View the slides here.

Eager to know where your locations stand? Take advantage of a Free Local Presence Audit today.