Local store marketing is critical for many retailers, particularly those who have brick-and-mortar stores. Chances are, the bulk of your foot traffic comes from people in the neighborhood, so it’s vital that you get yourself in front of as many locals as possible.
Here are a few tips, ideas, and examples to help you boost your presence in your neighborhood.
1. Start by identifying the unique aspects of your community
You want your local strategy to resonate with your neighborhood, so do some research into your community to figure out what makes it tick. Ask yourself:
- What’s the demographic and psychographic profile of the population?
- What do people in the neighborhood like to do?
- Are there any trends that are really popular with the community?
The answers to these questions will help you come up with the right messaging and marketing activities to execute.
Lifeline Repairs, a chain of electronic repair shops with 20+ locations in the US, creates fantastic local marketing strategies for each of their stores.
Since their shops are scattered across different types of cities and neighborhoods, the Lifeline Repairs team spends a lot of time researching each community and coming up with the right approach.
According to Kestas Masanauskas, the Chief Operations Officer at LifeLine Repairs, doing so enables them to come up with initiatives for each market.
When they launched a store in Boise, Idaho, for example, Lifeline Repairs ran a biking initiative, after discovering that the community loved to bike.
“We did an event,” explained Kestas. “[The franchisee] and I had an idea of doing free bikes, so we set up eight bikes next to the store, and people could just come and use them. Like, if you’re walking around and you want to have a bike ride, you could come to the store, pick up a bike, then drop it off whenever you can.”
Lifeline Repairs also has a branch in downtown Chicago, but they have a completely different approach for that neighborhood simply because biking wasn’t as popular there.
“With downtown Chicago, we do a lot of business outreach because, within two miles, we have hundreds of businesses and high-rises. This is right in the financial district… where there’s very high traffic, and it’s a lot of business people who prioritize speed and availability. They want to be in and out, and they want to move on with their day. They don’t want to hear anything else.”
Adopt a similar approach, mainly if you’re running multiple stores. Examine each neighborhood that you’re in, figure out what makes every community unique, then come up with marketing ideas specific to each location.
2. Invest in local SEO
SEO is a cornerstone of any local retail strategy. As Adweek points out, 45% of all searches on Google now include local intent (i.e., finding nearby businesses) and 84% of those local searches result in a purchase.
Numbers like that tell us that many consumers are using search engines to find — and buy from — local businesses. So if you’re not getting in front of them, you’re leaving a lot of money on the table.
Now, we’ve talked about SEO for retailers in a previous post, but here are some quick tips to get you started.
Cover all your bases when it comes to local listings
Consumers in your city or town who want to find your type of business are likely entering search queries along the lines of “shoe store in Austin.” One of the best ways to show up on the top part of the search results for these queries is setting up a Google listing.
Step 1 – Get listed on Google My Business (GMB)
Head to google.com/business/ to submit your business. Doing this is as easy as clicking the “Start Now” button, filling out the form on the next page, and agreeing to Google’s Terms of Service.
Step 2 – Verify your business
Once you’ve added or claimed your listing, you’ll need to verify your business to manage it on Google Maps, Search, and other properties. There are several ways to verify your business. These include:
- Postcard verification
- Phone verification (available for select businesses)
- Email verification (available for select businesses)
- Instant business listing verification (available for select businesses)
- Bulk verification (available for businesses with 10+ locations)
Check out this helpful video to learn more about the verification process:
Step 3 – Add more details about your business
Once you’ve verified your business, you’ll be able to edit your listing and include as much information as you can about your store. Wesley Bradley, an SEO expert, says that retailers should have the following in their listing:
- Name, address and phone number (Important: Ensure that these details are identical to what’s listed on your site and any other listings.)
- Accurate business hours
- Lots of reviews
- Lots of visual content including recent photos, and if possible, a virtual tour of your store.
It takes a bit of extra time, but doing this will make your listing more attractive and, as a result, drive more traffic to your location and website.
Consider the example below. Which listing do you think gets more traffic: the one on the left, which contains detailed info, reviews, and lots of photos? Or the plain listing on the right? As far as appearances go, we’re willing to bet that the company on the left gets more business.
Done with your Google listing? Do the same thing for other sites and directories, including:
Come up with local-centric content
It also helps to publish locally-relevant content. For example, if you’re a local bridal shop, why not produce content around the best bridal photo shoot locations in your neighborhood? Or why not do a roundup of relevant events nearby?
Check out this great example from Pace Athletic.The Pace team published a compilation of trail events in Australia, complete with helpful descriptions and links.
Publishing these types of posts not only educates local customers, but it can also help you obtain links (which are critical to SEO). If you posted a roundup article, for example, you can get in touch with the companies or people that you mentioned and encourage them to share or link back to the post.
Speaking of which, strive to obtain relevant and high-quality links to your website. Aside from publishing great content on your blog, consider doing the following:
- Publishing articles on relevant sites
- Getting links from local event websites (by sponsoring or participating in them)
- Getting yourself mentioned in the media
And that brings us to our next point…
3. Talk to the local press
In addition to helping you build links, getting your name in the media can put you in front of a whole lot of people. If you’re new to getting press mentions for your business, we recommend that you start with local publications.
Identify your local outlets
Start by making a list of local media properties. A Google search for queries like “local magazines in Toronto” or “Brooklyn radio stations” should do the trick. If you’re in the US, you can check out USNPL, a media directory with “links to US newspapers, TV stations, radio stations, and colleges.”
Find the right reporters
Once you have a list of outlets, check out their websites and find stories that are relevant to your business. Identify the journalists behind those pieces, and put them on a list of reporters to pitch to.
You can also figure out who’s covering your industry by looking at the publication’s editorial page or by finding reportings who have written about your competitors.
Found your reporters? Great. Start crafting relevant and personalized pitches. You don’t have to create these from scratch, but you do have to make an effort to ensure that each one is tailored to the writer you’re reaching out to.
As we mentioned in our article about DIY PR for retailers, one thing you can do is personalize your introduction by referencing a recent article they wrote, or mentioning a tweet or update and then relating it to your business.
Show them that you did your research. Flatter them a bit (but in a sincere way). Most importantly, see to it that your pitch answers the question of what’s in it for them. In other words, be very clear about the value of your story and why they should care.
Don’t forget to tailor the voice and tone of your pitch to the specific person you’re reaching out to. Naturally, the approach that you’d use on a serious business outlet should be different from how you would pitch an upbeat or causal blogger.
Bonus tip: work with your vendors
Got an interesting story or anecdote that involves a vendor or one of the companies you do business with? Work with them to create a story. Perhaps they can include you as a case study or success tale.
Check out what happened TopShelf Style, one of Vend’s customers in San Francisco. We created a compelling story around how TopShelf uses Vend, and this helped us land a story in the Wall Street Journal.
4. Localize your inventory
Another way to drive traffic from the locals? Make yourself the go-to place for relevant products. Do your research to find trends, seasons, or events that could influence local purchases, and then stock up accordingly.
This is particularly important if you have several stores that are spread out across the country. Your assortment in your San Francisco location should not be the same as the one in your New York store.
Pay very close attention to your product reports for each shop to determine which products to stock and where.
Another idea is to source your products locally. Aside from enabling you to create more unique and compelling assortments, supporting local makers can strengthen your local economy — and that’s good for everyone.
Williams Sonoma a good example of a retailer adopting a localized inventory strategy. In 2017, the company opened a dual-concept store at NorthPark Center in Dallas TX. The shop carried artisanal items local to Dallas as well as food products from local businesses.
Consider adopting a similar strategy. See if you’re able to source your products from local businesses then test out those new assortments in your store.
5. Participate in or sponsor local events
Aside from helping you gain links, taking part in local events can also put you in front of the press and potential customers. That’s why if there’s an event happening in your neighborhood — whether it’s a fundraising function, a party, or a sporting event — find ways to participate if it’s relevant to your business.
For example, there’s this event called Flow + Flavor // Rooftop Yoga in Los Angeles, which brings together people who practice yoga. In addition to yoga activities, Flow + Flavor also features local businesses, such as activewear retailer WERKSHOP selling goods at the event.
6. Get into the “Buy Local” movement
There are plenty of Buy/Shop/Love/Go Local groups across the country. Find one that serves your community then explore how you can participate. These efforts have proven to drive community involvement and spending.
These initiatives look a little different from one community to the next but CNN reports that buy local alliances “generally require their members to pay dues, and in return, provide signs for the storefront and support on educating customers that buying from them means choosing local.
Depending on your business and community, it may behoove you to join a local alliance. Most big cities have them, and one way to find out is to Google “buy local [insert city name]” and seeing what comes up.
There are also several “buy local” movements on a bigger scale, so if you can’t find an alliance in your area, consider participating in nation-wide movements or organizations such as:
- Sustainable Connections
- Small Business Saturday
- Business Alliance for Local Living Economies (BALLE)
If you enjoyed this post, be sure to check out Vend’s guide to increasing sales. This handy resource offers 10 proven tactics for boosting retail sales and improving your bottom line.
Specifically, you will:
- Discover how to turn savvy shoppers into loyal customers
- Learn how to add real and perceived value to each sale
- Discover the most effective ways to set yourself apart from your competitors
About Francesca Nicasio
Francesca Nicasio is Vend's Retail Expert and Content Strategist. She writes about trends, tips, and other cool things that enable retailers to increase sales, serve customers better, and be more awesome overall. She's also the author of Retail Survival of the Fittest, a free eBook to help retailers future-proof their stores. Connect with her on LinkedIn, Twitter, or Google+.