Narrating the customer journey to your door


When considering your local marketing approach it is imperative that you understand the importance of SEO for local businesses, and how utilising it effectively can result in new customers through the door, writes Gekko’s Daniel Todaro.

One positive outcome following the COVID pandemic is that local communities have rallied around their small independent businesses – particularly retailers. Whilst the multiples close unprofitable locations on the high street, decreasing their retail doors, independents are swooping in to do what the big names have failed so spectacularly to do – namely, talk to their immediate audience.

The vast majority of multiple retailers, including retail banking, are clueless to what the local community and their consumer actually needs and wants; they continue to cite financial woes as a reason to close more doors, abandoning towns and cities in the process. They fail to realise that being part of the community can actually create growth for them and increase brand advocacy.

Retail used to be the most innovative industry, where a progressive approach to understanding the consumer and creating experiences made your store a destination. But this seems to have dissipated somewhat and retailers are simply left wondering why people no longer want to shop with them. And being uninviting means consumers will literally walk on by.

Lack of local authority support

A recent study by Shopify found that 35 per cent of consumers prefer experiential shopping. Seasonality can create these experiences and boost marketing and sales efforts, but most retailers fail to even engage at the most basic levels.

At the other end of the spectrum, in my opinion, is the quite pathetic attempts by local authorities to support their communities – understandably failed by this government which has overseen local authority budgets being squeezed almost to bankruptcy. The government offers idiotic solutions to regenerate local communities and it fails to even protect local jobs, let alone increase the local economy and create thriving, energetic towns.

It’s about time retailers, local authorities and the government sorted their acts out and focussed on delivering for people and not merely themselves. I wouldn’t like to think what the result would be if things don’t start turning around.

But what can an independent retailer do with their local marketing to succeed where the behemoths have failed? And how can you do it better and uniquely in your own style to speak in a voice and tone that your community will understand and find appealing?

Footfall across UK retail destinations increased in January, despite the impact of rail strikes and other industrial action. The annual increase in footfall was largely unaffected, with the gap from the 2019 level even narrowing slightly. And then last month, although footfall growth slowed slightly compared to January, year-on-year figures against February 2022 showed that high street and shopping centre footfall was up considerably!

Figures showed that feet on the (high) street jumped by 17.8 per cent this February compared to last year, and shopping centre traffic increased by 11.7 per cent.

However, it’s no secret that consumer demand remains fragile, owing to the ongoing cost-of-living crisis and weak consumer confidence.

The start of the shopping journey

In today’s modern world, many consumers start their shopping journey on their phone or their computer. It’s been said that 74 per cent of consumers state that they rely on social media to guide purchasing decisions, and 81 per cent of shoppers research online before purchasing. In reverse, 96 per cent of small businesses use social media in their marketing strategy, of which 41 per cent depend on it solely to drive revenue.

So with all that said, it’s absolutely crucial that shoppers find your products and services before they discover your competitor’s. And it would seem that recommendations in the form of reviews are essential. It’s claimed by Forbes that 90 per cent of purchasing decisions are based on these positive reviews. Therefore, those comments, likes and shares really do matter when people are being led to your website landing page.

This is particularly important for any small business and its marketing mix – as more than half of consumers won’t use a company if it has less than a four-star rating! And 88 per cent of people trust online reviews as much as they trust personal recommendations (Birkett, 2020).

It is interesting to note that over half of all “near me” searches online will result in an offline store visit, and 62 per cent of consumers will disregard a business if they can’t find it online. More significantly, 88 per cent of potential customers look for online reviews before choosing local services, and 24 per cent of all clicks go to the first result of local business searches.

So having a top Google search result is proven to have an average click-through rate of 31.7 per cent (Backlinko), and increases the need for your reviews to be exemplary if you’re going to target that huge chunk of people that start their shopping journey online.

That professional approach you take in-store to deliver a positive customer experience needs to translate equally through reviews and online presence. This should be evident to the consumer through your marketing either on socials or search, to ensure a seamless and frictionless customer journey. A journey that is likely to start online from search to your marketing, either on third party platforms or your own, that enhances your proposition to convert that search into a customer you engage with in person.

Joined-up thinking

Use local marketing to talk about what makes you different – your approach, your offers and more. So make sure your staff know what you are marketing to ensure a joined up approach, from what the customer sees and reads and how that translates into the experience they receive on your shop floor. Train your staff to mirror your local marketing in their approach with customers and set targets with staff to identify those who were attracted into the store through your advertising. Use this intelligence to understand what is and is not working effectively to fine-tune and ensure your tone resonates with your customers.

So when considering your local marketing approach it is imperative that you understand the importance of SEO for local businesses, and how utilising it effectively and professionally can result in new customers through the door. Once there, the seamless journey kicks-in where you’ve curated the narrative and the shopper will receive the same kind of service they were promised – and hopefully they will become a repeat customer and spread the word about your business.