From mobile advertising to geo-targeting, beacons, on-demand delivery, email marketing, and even online scheduling solutions, 2014 was a year of opportunity for small business marketers. Faced with an abundance of hyperlocal marketing options to choose from, local merchants dug in and did the necessary research to pinpoint the solutions most likely to deliver a high ROI for their businesses.
Given all the hyperlocal solutions aimed at small businesses in 2014, it’s no wonder merchants took a varied approach. Over the past year, merchants have become savvier about online marketing solutions, and as a result, many are now willing to try platforms they would not have been comfortable using in previous years.
Next month, Street Fight Insights will be releasing our latest Local Merchant Report. We partnered with Thrive Analytics to survey over 500 small business owners in order to get a sense of how they make decisions about marketing, and what platforms are working best for them.
Over the past year, I’ve spoken to countless small business owners about their hyperlocal marketing strategies and goals. Here are the five of keys to success most frequently echoed by the most successful among them.
1. Utilizing multiple platforms
Hesitant to put too many eggs in any one basket, small business owners this year found success by using multiple hyperlocal platforms, often at the same time. Merchants like Rick Karp, of Cole Hardware in San Francisco, say they can achieve a higher ROI when they combine multiple solutions into an integrated marketing strategy. The customer acquisition results driven by social platforms like Facebook and Twitter are amplified when businesses use those platforms together with other hyperlocal solutions, like influencer marketing dashboards, email newsletters, and even online scheduling platforms.
2. Upgrading the in-store experience with mPOS
Square, NCR Silver, Vend, Shopkeep — the list of cloud-based POS providers aimed at the SMB market continued growing this year. Merchants who found the most success in adopting mPOS systems were often the ones who searched for ways to use their new systems to enhance the overall in-store experience for customers. For businesses like Bricks & Minifigs, this meant integrating an mPOS system with a digital rewards program. Other businesses used mPOS systems to enhance their existing email marketing campaigns and collect data about customer habits and purchasing trends.
3. Targeting nearby customers with mobile
As hyperlocal vendors got better at refining and simplifying their mobile offerings this past year, small business owners were finally willing to take the full leap into mobile marketing. Although business owners like Paul Wade, of Third Street Boxing Gym, haven’t ditched their offline advertising programs entirely, they have begun shifting a greater percentage of their marketing budgets to mobile because of the ability to target the right customers at the right time.
4. Influencing the influencers
As local merchants dug deeper into social media this year, they realized that actually driving in-store traffic required more than just posting infrequent status updates on social media networks. Hyperlocal tools like MarketMeSuite, QuickShouts, and WeLink brought geo-location tools to social media marketing and helped small businesses connect with local influencers in their communities. Using incentives to lure those influencers users into their establishments, merchants were provided with a low cost way to spread the word about their businesses.
5. Building alliances with peers
Small business owners tend to have a strong sense of individualism. However, a number of hyperlocal vendors made headway in the local space this year by providing ways for merchants to band together for the greater good. Local business networking platforms like Alignable and Townsquared, and even loyalty programs like FiveStars (which provides businesses with a way to reward customers for shopping at their own stores, along with other locally-owned businesses in their neighborhoods) all gained significant traction this year, as local business owners discovered ways to work together through online channels.
Stephanie Miles is a senior editor at Street Fight.