It may seem counter-intuitive at a time when everything seems to have gone remote, but local marketing remains essential for multi-location brands.
That’s a key takeaway from a recent report by research firm Forrester for SOCi, an all-in-one platform for multi-location marketers.
Entitled “The Localized Marketing Imperative” [free, registration required] and based on a survey of 154 multilocation marketing leaders, the study found that “decision makers appreciate localized marketing’s value, but few have realized its full potential.” About half of the respondents had 30 to 49 physical locations, and the other half more – including 25 percent with 100 or more.
The key driver, says Forrester, is that “seventy-three percent of surveyed multilocation marketers agree that customers expect their experiences to align with their immediate context.”
That’s consistent with marketers’ general understanding of customer experience – it should be relevant to a customer at that time, in that place. But marketers have additional reasons to tailor their marketing toward the particulars of each location.
Even during this pandemic, pickups, returns and customer service are still important to remote buyers, and some businesses – such as restaurants with outdoor dining – are managing to eke out a niche for localized in-person sales.
Someday, the pandemic will end. Whether it happens relatively quickly or over a stretch of time, the end will likely trigger a boom akin to what happens after a snow blizzard melts away, but bigger. We’ve all been suffering a kind of cabin fever, and, when it is lifted, the biggest beneficiaries are likely to be the corner stores and the neighborhood restaurants, whether part of a national brand or not.
Localized marketing requires specialized attention because it really is bi-focal: the marketer needs to remain consistent with national branding themes, identity and pitches, but details that are specific to each location needs to be accurate and prominent.
A key reason, the Forrester report points out, is that search engines and social sites often provide localized results, such as the nearest location, the local availability of the product or service, and, often, feedback from local customers. If the search or social info conflicts with marketing details about local phone numbers or sales, customers could look elsewhere.
But it’s not just national focus + local details. The best localized marketing also takes into account regional language and preferences to present offers that are tailored to customers.
A submarine sandwich in Philadelphia, for instance, is a hoagie, and Burger King is known as “Hungry Jack’s” in Australia because its better known name was already trademarked by a restaurant in Adelaide. A “Patriot’s Day” special in Massachusetts or Maine will show customers an affinity for their local holiday.
The report finds that location connectivity for national brands has two main advantages: it promotes customer relationships at a granular level, and it better positions brands for flexibility in the rapidly shifting landscape.
If localized marketing is so essential, why isn’t every marketer fully engaged in that strategy? The Forrester report cites the resources, management tools and scales required for granular management across dozens of stores, as well as location-based strategies and integration between departmental silos, such as someone handling the information flow and feedback from local social posts.
As might be expected for such a sponsored study, the report points to solutions like SOCi’s, which offers a central platform for managing content across locations and other sites to help organizations maintain consistency, coordination and local specifics.
Such a platform can help marketers maintain the most common model – a hybrid that combines centralized planning and execution with a decentralized approach that tailors marketing to the specific local conditions. A hybrid approach also lets marketers take advantage of national visibility while boosting or dropping local efforts as soon as local conditions change. In non-pandemic times, for instance, daily weather conditions or the victory of a local sports team could stimulate sales or increase foot traffic.
Whether using a platform designed for large-scale management of localized marketing, or employing a suite of general tools, the report recommends several approaches for an optimized strategy: define responsibilities for localized marketing, educate all stakeholders (including those handling local search results), coordinate information across all locations with a national approach, and utilize local feedback to improve experiences.
Along with product quality, customer experience helps differentiate one brand from another. During this pandemic and afterwards, attention to the nearby physical location – and the interests of the area’s customers – become an increasingly important part of how a national brand evolves from just a name into becoming a kind of neighbor.