What We Learned About Local Merchants in 2013

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smalltown1As local merchants grow more comfortable using digital technology in their personal lives, they’re becoming increasingly interested in the world of hyperlocal marketing. In Street Fight’s 2013 Report on the State of the Local Merchant,” merchants discussed what they were looking for from hyperlocal vendors, and outlined the factors they look at when deciding where to spend their local marketing dollars.

Small and medium-sized business owners have heard all of the pitches, and most have become accustomed to being solicited by marketers with offerings that seem too good to be true. However, 40% of merchants now say they are actively searching for marketing tools they can use to drive new customers. The second most important factor that local merchants look at when deciding how to allocate their local marketing budgets is whether a platform “ensure[s] the right people are being targeted.”

The key for marketers looking to reach small business owners is to be specific about the types of results they can realistically provide. Here are five things that vendors can do to effectively sell to local merchants:

1) Demonstrate a direct and sustainable ROI.
Nineteen percent of respondents in Street Fight’s 2013 survey reported that demonstrating direct ROI was the single most important factor they considered when deciding to run a local marketing campaign. Vendors that show a direct and sustainable ROI have a better chance of catching a merchant’s attention.

2) Eliminate upfront costs.
Small business owners are operating on razor-thin margins, and most don’t have extra cash to spend upfront on hyperlocal marketing platforms that may or may not pay off in the end. More than 86% of merchants surveyed by Street Fight reported that cost and ROI factor into their decisions of which hyperlocal marketing vendors to work with.

3) Boost the analytics.
A lack of quantifiable data is one of the primary reasons why local merchants are likely to switch from offline to online advertising. In fact, 43% of merchants surveyed by Street Fight said a lack of metrics is the single biggest obstacle to doing more local marketing. The more data a vendor is able to provide, the easier it is to justify cost and prove ROI.

4) Target the right consumers.
Targeting is incredibly important to small business owners, many of whom have discovered that they cannot reach younger demographics through print advertising alone. Thirty-seven percent of merchants surveyed by Street Fight reported that making sure the right people are being targeted is the single most important factor they look at when deciding to run local campaigns. More than one-in-five merchants also said that demographics factor into their decision when selecting which local marketing vendor to work with.

5) Keep it simple.
Merchants continue to feel overwhelmed by the sheer volume of options available, and 71% say they feel “unprepared for the data explosion underway” in local marketing. Hyperlocal vendors stand apart from competitors when they are able to break down their offerings in a way that makes sense to merchants who may not feel comfortable using technological jargon on a daily basis.

Get more insight into SMBs in Street Fight’s 2013 Report on the State of the Local Merchant.

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.