Local marketing for this holiday season will look dramatically different from any other in recent memory. As consumers, we are social distancing, wearing masks in stores, maybe working or learning from home—stress levels for many are sky-high. Already, experts predict that discretionary spending will be down and shoppers will be thinking carefully about where they spend their money. Simple decisions like whether or not to go to a store have become quite complicated now, especially if someone has a pre-existing health condition.
How can brands adapt in time to meet shoppers’ needs and win holiday business in the face of an ongoing pandemic? Here are seven key tips for your 2020 holiday marketing.
1. Make Online Shopping & Fulfillment Seamless
We are seeing a huge shift in e-commerce adoption due to the limitations of the pandemic—a leap forward of 5 years, according to IBM—but people still have the same concerns they did last year. There are still a large number of people who are leery about sharing their credit card information online, or uncertain about shipping or return processes. Feature this information prominently on your website, in social, and in local listings to help customers understand what this experience is going to be like and proactively take away any concerns.
You can expect that many customers will be concerned about their health and safety this year and may be hesitant about going into a physical store. Focus your local marketing on empathizing with these very valid concerns and providing reassurance. Make sure all of your listings have the right URL for your online ordering platform, and not your homepage. Have your BOPIS (buy online pickup in-store), curbside pickup, and contactless delivery and payment options featured prominently so customers can choose the fulfillment method that works best for them. Run through the entire online shopping process as if you were a customer and make sure it’s a seamless experience.
Understand that just because people are shopping online now, it doesn’t mean they’re totally comfortable with it. It’s your job to remove barriers and proactively provide reassurance with the content you produce.
2. Focus on Local Listings Optimization & Accuracy
Local listings have always been an important facet of any local marketing strategy and are exponentially more so this year. Customers are on the hunt for information about accessibility, special store hours, sanitization procedures, local inventory and more. Don’t expect that customers will make any extra effort to contact your business and ask these questions; they’ll simply move on to the next search result that delivers the information they need to make a decision.
Use the attributes available in GMB, Yelp and other platforms to communicate your store hours, enhanced cleaning protocol, staff training, curbside pickup, etc. Post pictures. Publish Google Posts. Help people understand what has changed with your business. It’s particularly important this year that you proactively get answers in front of people before they have questions and make decisions.
3. Communicate Important Information Across Channels
There are so many different local marketing channels where people might be encountering your brand and discovering you for the first time. Are they finding the same helpful information on Yelp as they are on TripAdvisor, and on Google as on Facebook? You may have input the correct information months ago, but the way these platforms crowdsource business information makes it easy for errors, duplicate listings, and other issues to pop up.
Make sure you’re monitoring for listings accuracy and making corrections immediately.
When you need to change store hours, update services/products, or otherwise make substantial changes that could impact customer experience, distribute that information across all platforms. Create supplemental content for each channel to drive customers back to your main info and ordering pages. The customer who shows up at a closed store expecting it to be open doesn’t really care that you sent an email notifying subscribers of the closure when your GMB listing still told them you were open, for example.
Staying on top of last-minute changes is made much easier with the right technology and team members in place to support real-time updates across your local search footprint.
4. Respond to Every Online Review
Customers will be posting reviews of their shopping experiences with your brand, and both Google and Yelp say they expect businesses on their websites to respond to every review.
Positive reviews are great but what about the negative reviews? Responding quickly to those could fix a bad customer experience, but it also gives you a chance to have an effective response live online forever. It could be three to five to ten years that other customers are going to see that you were engaged and that you cared, and that you tried to fix a customer’s problem.
Review response and live chat go hand in hand and you might even have the same team working on these together. It’s important at the brand level that you have an overall view of what’s happening across all these different platforms and your hundreds or thousands of locations. How are you making sure that not one review falls through the cracks?
It’s important that you have a documented process and that the people who are responding to these reviews understand it. When are they going to delete negative reviews? When are they going to escalate? When will they try to get people into a private chat to fix a problem? If you need to develop these processes and get your team up to speed in a hurry, we can help.
Consider using prepared scripts and templates. If you have had that in years past, they might need to be updated with the types of issues that you’re going to have around social distancing and masks and sanitization, etc. The feedback you’ll be getting in reviews may have to do with those things this year. Now is the right time to take a look at these issues.
5. Complement Local Marketing with Paid Social
Make good use of the ability to promote content with social PPC to help fill in gaps in your organic SEO and paid search strategies. Make sure you have a really clear picture of how each location is performing in local search, then use paid social to augment your communications about promotions and permeate those really difficult markets and competitive search listings.
Ideally, you’re already repurposing blog and thought leadership content to maximize the value of each piece and keep your social publishing calendar hopping. If not, check out some of the examples here as inspiration and let us know if you need a hand.
Often, social PPC can offer more bang for your buck than search. Budget carefully and keep a handle on your ROI to ensure you’re allocating your paid spend most effectively throughout the holidays.
6. Be Agile in Your Campaign Planning and Execution
This can be a really difficult adjustment for organizations accustomed to planning their local marketing campaigns a quarter or more ahead. If you plan out the next three months and think it’s all going to happen that way – think again! Be prepared for literally anything. That means having the people and the technology in place to support whatever happens, either crisis or growth (or both).
We saw a lot of businesses explode with growth after the 2008 financial crisis. They were the ones who could move quickly and weren’t too married to old ideas. Get ready to recognize and take advantage of opportunities as they present themselves—and to fail quickly and change course as the circumstances call for it.
7. Make No Assumptions
Customers won’t be wandering the malls en masse this season; more than ever, they’ll be perusing their options online and overwhelmingly turning to organic and local search for answers. Your market may have completely changed since last season, making historical data particularly unreliable this year.
What does your search presence tell them?
Search isn’t a one-way conversation, though—there’s a great deal that search data can tell you about who your customers are now and what matters to them most. Keep your finger on the pulse of constantly changing consumer concerns, preferences, behaviors and motivations with business intelligence gleaned from search insights.
If you’re struggling to make sense of the changes in your market and understand what your opportunities are today, there are a number of ways we can help. Miranda-Miller.com puts powerful AI-driven tools to work for you and, with over 15 years of experience in search and marketing, activates that data with the creativity and strategic focus you need to move past the current uncertainty.
Get in touch and let’s see how we can help.