Case Study: Lenovo Uses Local Search Tactics to Drive In-Store Sales

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LenovoMerchant: Lenovo
Location: Global
Size: $34 billion company
Bottom Line: Local search marketing is helping brands without physical stores drive traffic to the retailers where their products are being sold.

How does a brand without its own brick-and-mortar stores drive offline sales? That’s the question that Donna Bedford and Rick Medeiros have struggled with as they continue to develop Lenovo’s local search strategy. “We’re starting to think, how do we start becoming more hyperlocal? We’re a global company, so how do we develop that hyperlocal presence and really try to make sure that people clearly know who we are,” Medeiros says.

As the company’s SEO global manager and executive director for the global user experience, respectively, Bedford and Medeiros were tasked with improving the overall user experience on and making sure customers know where they can go to purchase Lenovo products in person. “We basically revamped, launched that about six months ago, and have completed the rollout to well over 70 countries,” Medeiros says. “About a year-and-a-half ago, 10% of our mix was pretty much mobile traffic. Today it’s a heck of a lot more, but we knew that we needed to go head that off at the pass.”

Lenovo’s challenge is not unique among digital brands without their own physical stores. Although Lenovo is a global company, many of the retailers where its products are sold don’t have the capacity or the funding to develop their own mobile experiences. Medeiros was looking for a way to “elevate” Lenovo’s status as a “premium brand” among shoppers researching products on their smartphones and tablets. “We went through and thought, do we go with a mobile platform that’s standalone, or do we go with a responsive web design? What came back was that the responsive web design was really the right fit, both from a scalability [standpoint] and also communicating the brand,” Medeiros says. “It provides a good platform for us to test whether or not people can purchase or find out where they can purchase.”

It was during her research into mobile strategy that Bedford discovered an increase in the number of mobile searchers looking for information about where to buy Lenovo products in their own communities. “I was [seeing] a lot of searches around ‘Where can I buy.’ ‘Where can I buy in Atlanta?’ ‘Where can I buy in San Diego?’ People are looking for our products, but wanting to go local, wanting to go to a store, wanting to touch,” Bedford says. “We sell through retailers, but we don’t have our own stores. So trying [I was] to find something to meet that need and that intent.”

What Bedford landed on was a local search strategy that relies on more than 5,000 location-based mobile search pages targeted at shoppers in specific cities. For the past two months, shoppers who searched for where to buy a Lenovo computer in San Diego, for example, have been able to find a list of retailers that sell Lenovo products, filtered down to the zip code level. Users can then get turn-by-turn navigational directions to the store they select. “It’s nice that we’ve taken this responsive design and this uniform look on your desktop, your laptop, your tablet, and your smartphone. We’re also implementing a personalized local search for people who want to go and find it in their city,” Bedford says.

In researching Lenovo’s local search strategy, Bedford discovered a number of missed opportunities for competing retailers and technology brands. She’s noticed that Lenovo’s website often pops up in online searches, even when customers aren’t using branded terms. For example, someone searching for ‘Best Buy Atlanta computer’ may stumble upon the Lenovo website even without mentioning the company by name. “[This] suggests that there isn’t a lot of targeting around local searches right now. I think people very much rely on having Google Places attached to their physical addresses and aren’t really providing additional content on where their locations are,” Bedford says.

Shoppers who search for Lenovo products in their cities are also seeing local promotions, targeted based on location and time. For example, a shopper who searches for Lenovo products in North Carolina might see a coupon or a reminder with information about purchasing those products during North Carolina’s annual tax-free weekend. The next step for Lenovo will be to partner with retailers on its mobile coupons. “We’d like to work with retailers and see if we could offer a mobile coupon that people can just have on their phones in the store without having to download an app. They can just search ‘Best Buy Lenovo Atlanta’ and a page comes up and they get a coupon. That’s the next stage,” Bedford says.

Until then, the company will continue its local push through the busy holiday shopping season. “We expect it to grow, especially as we come into Black Friday and a lot more people are doing these searches,” Bedford says. “It’ll probably turn down after Christmas, but considering the only money we’ve spent was actually implementation and not in the marketing, it’s going really well.”

The Takeaway
Although national retailers receive the bulk of the attention when it comes to location-based marketing, the reality is that brands without their own brick-and-mortar locations are also pushing into this space. Local search is playing an increasingly important role for brands that don’t have their own physical stores. The tactics that Lenovo is using, which include location-based mobile search pages and targeted deals, have become an effective way to drive traffic to the retailers where the company’s products are sold.

Stephanie Miles is an associate editor at Street Fight.

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Stephanie Miles is a journalist who covers personal finance, technology, and real estate. As Street Fight’s senior editor, she is particularly interested in how local merchants and national brands are utilizing hyperlocal technology to reach consumers. She has written for FHM, the Daily News, Working World, Gawker, Cityfile, and Recessionwire.