The untapped opportunity of online ‘near me’ searches


James Gordon, executive vice president, Lastmile Retail

James Gordon, executive vice president, Lastmile Retail

Today, 87% of shoppers begin their product searches online, according to research from Salesforce and Publicis Sapient. And yet of the $5 trillion dollars of total retail sales in the US in 2017, e-commerce represented only 13%.

The big mistake most brick-and-mortar stores make is trying to beat Amazon at its own game rather than using the very thing that Amazon so desperately wants—physical presence. There’s a good reason Amazon bought Whole Foods and is conducting all sorts of experiments in creating 3,000 cashless stores. Amazon understands that while shoppers begin their product searches online, they still prefer the convenience of transacting locally in physical stores.

Significant market share is won or lost at the local level.

While there’s no denying that ecommerce is responsible for nearly half of the 4.4% growth that US retail experienced last year, the logical question is why are so many retailers fighting for the single-digit growth numbers happening in pure-play ecommerce when they could be grabbing substantially more physical in-store sales in their own backyard?

Fully Grasping the Power of “Near Me” in Search Results

The alternative is tapping into the power of local search in a more deliberate and systematic way—something many retailers simply don’t understand. Today, it’s simply not enough to run generic paid search campaigns in an effort to generate foot traffic. A deeper understanding is needed around how today’s shoppers seamlessly use search on their mobile devices to discover and act around immediate solutions to their shopping needs.

According to Google, in the last two years “near me” mobile searches have grown over 500%. When a shopper searches for “[Your Product] near me,” they are declaring that they are interested in purchasing the very product you sell in the most convenient location to where they are standing when they tap that search term into their mobile device. If your physical retail store isn’t showing the available item in-stock, that’s an immediate sales opportunity that was totally missed.

Today, Content in Context is King

There’s both too much and not enough content. In the aggregate, there’s more content available than any time in history. And yet, when a shopper is actively seeking out information with the intent to buy, there’s an insatiable demand for more to ensure the right purchase decision is made.

Adding “near me” includes context to a shopper’s search query. The right content in the right context allows the shopper to make an immediate and an informed decision. This is what they are seeking, and they are tapping into the power of search to discover the best solution to their needs in the moment. Proper context provided as part of a search for content will produce the desired immediate sales impact.

Taking Full Advantage of “Near Me” Contextual Search

For physical retailers who aren’t aware of the growing power of local search, the first step is to begin tracking and measuring just how much search volume is happening around the products and services that you offer. Understanding that you can’t manage what you don’t measure, this is a great place to start.

What’s better is to launch a pilot program where you are investing in the areas where your shoppers are actively searching. Think about it. The majority of physical stores are centrally managed online with little more than a late 1990’s-style store locator and possibly a dedicated page that has store hours and a map. For most shoppers that’s woefully insufficient. So much attention has been given to mobile apps, responsive design and e-commerce functionality that not much progress has been made better leveraging the brick-and-mortar assets they already own.

In the age of big data, shoppers want to be able to tap into individual store’s local deals, real-time inventory, book an appointment, call an employee, begin a sales chat, redeem a coupon, and access as much of the in-store experience as they would need in order to decide to step foot into your store.

This is where buy online and pick-up in-store can provide a competitive advantage over Amazon Prime and next-day deliveries. Simply put, by thinking through the end-to-end ideal customer journey, brick-and-mortar stores can provide a huge competitive advantage, one that is typically underleveraged and overlooked.

The ROI of “Near Me” Local Search

The tech-forward, digitally astute brick-and-mortar stores that have taken the time to provide more relevant local data tend to capture the attention of Google’s algorithm and, as a result, move up the search rankings. While that page result upward migration can take up to 6 months to happen organically, retailers see immediate benefits along that journey, including:

  • 3-5 Times Higher Conversion Rates
  • 100% Incremental Search Traffic
  • 30% Increase in Local Leads
  • 300% Increase in Buy Online and Pick Up in Store
  • 500% Return on Investment (within 6 months)=

Beyond all the stats is an important distinction that retailers are only beginning to understand: Significant market share is won or lost at the local level. While multi-million-dollar advertising campaigns help build brands, brick-and-mortar sales are won or lost at the individual store level. According to Accenture, the number one requested shopper feature is to check stock online. And 50% of mobile searches lead to a store visit within a day, according to Google.

Knowing that 87% of shoppers begin their searches online and would prefer to purchase in-store when given the opportunity, it would seem that understanding how to tap into the 500% growth of “near me” search volume should be a bigger priority for brick-and-mortar retailers. The good news is, the first movers tend to get the biggest returns on their efforts and it’s been a relatively slow migration toward understanding and maximizing local search.

Lastmile Retail specializes in helping bricks-and-mortar retailers connect with online shoppers via store locators and local search marketing.

 

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