Taking location marketing as the process of delivering visitors to a specific location or set of locations, one of the simplest solutions is to be visible to people who are looking for the service you offer.
As a prime driver of discovery and self-proclaimed organiser of the world’s information, Google is well placed to suggest such services. Google Trends shows that people tend to agree, with ‘…near me’ searches rising rapidly in the UK alone over the past five years.
Responding to this immediate, on the go style of searching, Google has been adding more and more local information into its search results page to bring all nearby store options to users’ fingertips, collating what once would have required visits to several different brand sites to find out the best and most convenient location.
This isn’t to say that the role of organic search has diminished, far from it, more that optimising Maps and Google local listings has become an increased area of focus, as this discovery increasingly takes place before a site visit.
This is only likely to become more important with the increasing role of voice search in our daily lives. Mercedes is one example of a car manufacturer that has started incorporating voice assistants into its vehicles. It’s not hard to see how the same search behaviour we’re seeing so strongly on mobile easily translates to voice discovery, meaning brands should also add a strong Maps strategy to their list of SEO priorities.
Catering to people who are actively looking for a specific business is one thing, but the next step brands need to be taking is to broaden their efforts to those potentially interested. The time and distance people are willing to travel to the location will obviously be an important factor to take into consideration. Some companies specialise in analysing credit card sales to create maps of billing addresses, while at Reprise, we've developed our own mapping tool that can ingest HVA or sales data, and overlay that with postcode and travel time radii to identify the real audience hotspots within a likely area.
One point to think about more carefully within this is the kind of location you’re advertising: supermarket shoppers in the UK won’t generally be thinking about their next stop any longer than a week in advance, but potential travellers to Sziget festival will start their planning process much earlier and from much further away. Closely linked to this is the impact of the weather, both in influencing what people are looking for but also how far they’re willing to go to get it. With so many different factors in play, and an increasing desire from consumers to be spoken to as individuals and not members of an audience pool, programmatic becomes an attractive option for the flexibility dynamic advertising affords.
For any potential customers living outside a reasonable radius area for a store, ecommerce clearly offers a viable solution. What complicates this situation is the fact that it is not uncommon for brands to have a physical and a digital presence in the same area, which in the case of retailers especially, often fulfil a similar need for consumers: the need to purchase. How then, is a brand to differentiate who to send to which location, and just as importantly, what experience to offer them?
This is not a simple question to answer, and there won't be one solution that fits all brands. The troubles plaguing the high street show a dissatisfaction with the experience as it exists currently, and yet, neither have we abandoned shopping in person to become purely ecommerce buyers.
One of the advantages of online shopping is having larger or more awkwardly shaped items delivered to you at a convenient time and place. This is helpful if you’re buying several crates of drinks for an event, but less so if you’re on your way home from the gym and just want one bottle of water to cool off. Understanding whether a physical or digital location is best placed to service the need that lies behind the product search is one way of establishing a different role for the two.
It’s not always about sales, however. Physical locations are different from digital ones in that they serve as prominent representatives of the brand in a particular space. There’s also something to be said for a physical location acting as a kind of year-round billboard, keeping the brand for those who walk past the store front. This has added considerations if the location the store is in has pre-existing connotations: compare, for example, the assumptions made about a clothes store that lists its address as Saville Row versus one based in Shoreditch. In instances like this, the physical location becomes a kind of marketing itself, rather than purely a recipient of it.
LEGO has captured both the opportunity for brands to be seen as a positive force in the community, and the joy of uncovering a new find in person by taking over an empty shop to set up an augmented reality pop-up to promote its adult clothing line.
In fact, some brands are taking this a step further by keeping sales as the preserve of online, freeing up physical locations to act as more of an event space or PR generator. If the future of digital commerce lies in delivering any product to anyone as quickly and easily as possible, physical spaces may need to specialise to survive.
According to The Guardian, one area of Berlin is establishing a reputation as the home of such niche retailers, who strive for delight in the real world, and back up the business model with ecommerce. Marketing the right location to the right person has undoubtedly been complicated by the growth of ecommerce, and the increasing inability of the traditional high street to meet the needs of the modern consumer.
Understanding the motivation behind the product purchase, and how far people are willing to travel for it, is key. This is not to say that brands should aim to replicate the same experience both on and offline as much as possible – for brands who understand the role they can play in a physical community, there’s a real opportunity to offer something different and meaningful.
Caity Parker, associate strategy director at Reprise.