The Local Service Layer: How National-to-Local Succeeds
The marketing industry is undergoing a massive transformation. Digital networks now allow consumers, employees and others to share information directly with each other, sidestepping the reach of the more centrally-controlled communication channels and filters such as television that have dominated for a half century.
Large national brands with local presences — everything from insurance companies to coffee and retail chains — can use their massive network of stores and employees to connect with consumers in unprecedented ways. Each barista and agent can help guide the way the brand interacts with consumers, creating a more authentic and relevant experience for the shopper. An empowered touch point on the front lines with consumers can yield powerful results, given the right tools that maintain brand intention and create more intimacy and open communication, while also gathering essential data.
In developing a national-to-local strategy, brands need to consider these two key resources: people and data. Employees, affiliates and other local evangelists offer an immense resource for promoting a brand to local consumers, and eventually driving sales. At the same time, a deluge of local information is now available to allow brands to tailor messaging programmatically to the goings on of consumers’ personal experiences.
Harnessing this dynamic requires a “local service layer” that organizes, manages and integrates data and communication controls through an effective platform. This platform will support education, messaging, adoption and engagement, locally.
National-to-local strategies have lacked a clear, effective structure. A “local service layer” may offer a path to success.
Before a national brand can succeed in local, it needs to develop the systems and structures to aggregate, organize and present.
Creating the Data Layer
Data serves as the foundation of a national-to-local strategy, providing the fuel that allows algorithms to customize, personalize and localize messaging in ways that were never before possible. Those data help brands understand everything that customers might buy at a given store unique to a specific location and set of events.
However, those data often reside at the local level, scattered across hundreds of servers in various databases. Before a national brand can succeed in local, it needs to develop the systems and structures to aggregate, organize and present in order to refine the data from those varied sources into a meaningful asset that can be used by both people and machines to better connect with their consumers.
To start, marketers should take an inventory of their “owned” data. Marketers need to ensure that they have up-to-date information on their own locations, with the structures in place to access data about everything from store hours and coordinates to employee information and performance. If a given location has had a lot of success with a particular vertical, for instance, a brand should tailor messaging in its market to promote that scenario.
National brands also collect enormous amounts of information about their customers at the local level. Consumers’ purchase data and store traffic information provide an essential resource for marketers to understand the type of customer in each market. But more and more, local consumers are also engaging with brands on digital channels. Whether it’s a site visit, a Facebook follow, or the location data from a mobile app, marketers increasingly need to ensure they are collecting and segmenting digital signals locally.
But owned information only goes so far. Third-party data can provide valuable context to existing data streams, helping marketers not only understand the factors that shape consumer behavior but what’s unique about their customers as well.
For instance, weather plays an important role in any local economy. Studies show that weather has a strong correlation with buying patterns, often shaping when, how and what consumers purchase. By layering in real-time weather information, marketers can begin to predict these changes and customize messaging accordingly. For example, a local storm forecast causes a spike in snow shovel needs. This provides an opportunity to enable and target local messages and awareness to the specific needs – such as informing customers that shovels are available and perhaps on special at a specific set of stores.
It’s also important for marketers to consider the local demographics of a given market. An electronics chain, for instance, should not pitch a back-to-school sale at a location that serves a primarily young professional market.
Marketers need organized, coherent and relevant data for their products across their markets and customers. The right amount of information and anytics at the right time drive improved business and marketing decisions and market share. The question for marketers is how to organize and optimize the myriad data sources into a consolidated, actionable framework.
That’s why marketers need to make sure they have insightful presentation layers that surface the right information to the right person at the right time and enable actions. This starts with integrating data systems into a company’s existing channels, providing visibility and insight into trends. It then further provides controls to marketers, allowing them for example to use the data to initiate a local campaign, including social media posts, dynamic content changes on web sites and enhanced mobile interactions.
The Full Local Service Layer
This series explores aspects of this strategy, helping marketers and solution providers understand how it works and how to put it into action.