Gather around and repeat after me: “Brands cannot control the consumer’s path to purchase!”
My uncle uses Bing (exclusively) to find new businesses around him when he’s staying at a hotel in a new city. Not because he loves Bing – simply because it’s the default search engine in Microsoft Edge that came pre-installed on his computer.
I, on the other hand, swear by TripAdvisor when it comes to restaurant recommendations and information when I’m traveling. One major reason I use TripAdvisor instead of Yelp, is because I usually find more content about businesses on TripAdvisor owing to its user base. Check out the TripAdvisor and Yelp profiles of the Butterfly Garden at the Singapore Airport and you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about (608 reviews vs 8 reviews, 839 photos vs 51 photos, which one would you pick?)
You get where I’m going with this, right? Yelp loyalists would trust Yelp suggestions over other apps’, Google Home owners would seek advice from Google before they decide on a place to head out and eat, iPhone users would bank on Siri’s counsel to guide them through their exploration journey—the list goes on. Point being—customers use several different platforms to discover new businesses, which means that businesses need to absolutely make sure that their digital profiles contain rich and consistent information across all media.
This is where it gets interesting for me. Brands are willing to spend millions of dollars on advertisements and websites, but not on the actual nuanced details that send a patron to your establishment.
Let’s assume that I was looking for a burger restaurant, and wanted to know if that particular establishment had vegetarian options. A banner ad or a television commercial usually doesn’t have this information, and even if it did, these forms of media are not within my reach right before I make a purchase decision. What is within my reach, however, is my smartphone and my car’s in-built navigation system, devices that will help me make an informed decision in real-time before I get there.
Brands are simply overlooking these paths to purchase. Instead, they are investing in a full spectrum of media channels that, while greatly improving brand exposure, do not speak to the local intentions of any of their prospects. It’s the brand’s responsibility to put out the most personalized and optimized version of themselves across the board, but in many cases, digital profiles are neglected, and have inaccurate information, minimal brand-generated content, and poor star ratings.
Question: Why Brands Don’t Think About Local Marketing?
We still find that the reason for this question is because a brand marketer is often focused too heavily on their website and Google Analytics. We’ve analyzed over 165,000 businesses over the past year – a very big sample size – and have seen that seven out of ten engagements with businesses happen on third-party digital profiles versus their owned website channel. For many brands, the problem seems to be either a lack of awareness, or an unwillingness to spend time cleaning up and maintaining the content on these profiles.
The point that brands miss is that this feeds into your overall presence. All these little elements help your brand get the vast majority of traffic—traffic that otherwise goes to a competitor. Things like mentioning items that are seasonally relevant will feed into your presence and discoverability, but brands don’t see that—which directly affects a consumer’s search and business discovery experience.
Brand Discovery is Changing
Consumer behavior has changed, and today, it is largely governed by mobile and voice search. People aren’t going as often to websites on these devices, they are largely finding and choosing businesses based entirely on their digital profiles – and these profiles live on third-party platforms like Google, Yelp, and Facebook. Yet, marketers are still making decisions based on how people engage with their own website, which means that brands are missing valuable data, such as the engagement on their digital profiles, for instance.
We’ve gotten to the point where businesses can even run specific posts on Google My Business, including special offers, events, etc. that align with TV or print advertising. For example, your commercial can be aligned with your search behavior so the special offer will appear in your search history after viewing a commercial so the consumer can make that connection and engage more readily.
The potential rewards that come with this are enormous. Owned channels from brands, as we mentioned earlier, can drive up to 70% of a business’ views, engagements, phone calls, and visits, making it low hanging fruit for brands to acquire more local customers.
Reputation and Customer Perception
For large sites like Home Depot and Bass Pro Shops, thousands upon thousands of reviews are being posted, and no one is responding to them. There are questions being posted on a regular basis that go completely disregarded, and this shows an unwillingness to engage with customers, thereby providing a poor customer experience. Brands need to recognize that this could be automated to some degree using intent marketing software, and that brands can respond accordingly to the type of review (positive or negative), thus saving them time and putting them in a position to deliver a positive, personalized customer experience.
Multi-location brands need to think and act locally. Getting their basic business information right is a critical first step, but the bigger opportunity lies in their ability to meet the needs of customers who expect instant, relevant content in ways that have radically shifted in the last few years. Brands want and need tighter control over customer experience and the journey from discovery to the point of conversion. This requires connecting the dots between national advertising and local customer acquisition. It means retailers being in control of their own data and content (like local store inventory), and what the customer sees (or hears) when looking for that brand regardless of location, media or device.