Consumers love to engage with businesses through mobile services like social media, search engines, maps, review and rating services, voice assistants, and more. By 2021, mobile will influence $1.4 trillion in local sales, Forrester predicts. That’s a number to get retailers’ attention.
Brands that put weight behind mobile are ahead of the game. They understand that an effective mobile strategy is part of the new customer experience. But there’s a crucial component to being successful in a mobile-first world that many people don’t think about: location data and how to manage it effectively.
A new ballgame: location management isn’t what it used to be
Managing location information used to mean ensuring that business names, addresses, and phone numbers (“NAP”) were correct. Thanks to the proliferation—and consumer dependence on—digital maps and navigation systems (such as Google Maps and Apple Maps integrated into mobile phones), the geo-coordinates of a business also need to be accurately represented. The reality is that latitude and longitude, not postal or physical addresses, are used by the majority of consumer maps and nav systems.
This is also important because search engines—as well as Android and iOS-based mobile devices—recommend businesses in close proximity to the searching consumer. Google uses the data from locations to determine whether businesses should even appear in search results.
This means that accurate, consistent location information is one of the strongest signals for search engines. The more data a brand offers about each location, the more those search/recommendation engines value that business because its digital presence is consumer-friendly.
Information overload: managing location data in the digital age
Third-party business information services, including D&B, White Pages, and Yellow Pages, have published business listings for years. Now, hundreds of websites, web directories, mapping services, and social media networks also use and publish that information in a much higher level of detail than name, address, and phone number. .
This means that central brand managers must maintain a large digital footprint to follow customers across multiple social media and recommendation platforms. That consumes resources and makes engagement more fragmented.
Consumers can also hijack a brand’s efforts to engage with them by creating an unofficial Facebook Page, for example, that can let anyone post what they want—incorrect addresses, wrong business hours, etc.—without the brand even knowing it. This can turn location management into a nightmare.
Five things retailers need to do to get it right
Here are five top things to consider when managing the rich amount of location data and information available to brands:
- Location must be precise. Latitude and longitude, not postal or physical addresses, are used by the majority of consumer maps and nav systems today. The goal: Get consumers within 2-5 feet of the front door. Search engines also make recommendations that prioritize businesses in close proximity to the consumer performing the search. Accurate location information = increased brand visibility.
- Include comprehensive keywords. For networks like Google, Bing, and Facebook to include stores in top search results, keywords need to match location data. Eateries that have free Wi-Fi or are dog friendly, for instance, should list those amenities so search engines find them. If not, the stores may be immediately excluded.
- Show off your goods. In addition to optimizing location data for specific keywords, location data can also enhance the online appearance of a business. Many networks enable businesses to append visual media like photos and videos. Customers can browse images of dishes before heading to the restaurant, for instance, or look at hotel rooms. All of this builds trust.
- Make it personal. Consumers want to form relationships with people from whom they buy. Adding in a store manager’s name and/or photo can help create a personal relationship that goes beyond a brand-focused mass market approach.
- Centralize your data. To make sure consumers get up-to-date information, have a centralized “system of record” or master location database available as a definitive source of truth.
Centralization: a winning strategy for location management
The importance of centralization is key to successful mobile search and managing location data internally. A centralized database should contain each business’ descriptive details, features, and attributes. This will improve the flow of accurate information and effective communication internally and externally. With correct information at hand, a brand’s corporate office can more effectively channel information to individual store/business locations for events like regional holiday sales. At the same time, stores can manipulate their own unique data, say a new parking lot or store entrance, and funnel that back up to corporate.
Centralization is a win-win for brands and consumers, as accurate location information increases a store’s visibility in mobile searches, which allows customers to easily find stores and make them a destination of choice.
Derek Browers is Senior Vice President of Product at MomentFeed, where he oversees the company’s product roadmap and strategy across its suite of enterprise marketing products and solutions. Throughout his career, Derek has worked with several Fortune 500 companies to successfully build innovative marketing software solutions. Derek holds a BA from California State University, Northridge, and an MBA from Loyola Marymount University. Follow Derek on Twitter: @DMBrowers