7 Ways Merchants Can Help Shoppers Find Their Stores

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google-map-enterprise-coordinateNearly 9-in-10 consumers with mobile devices said they planned to use their smartphones and tablets to find stores while holiday shopping this year, leaving many merchants to wonder whether the right information is actually showing up when mobile users search for their stores.

According to a report by Infogroup, half of consumers have looked up merchant information online and ended up at a business that was closed — the type of negative experience that could leave a sour taste in anyone’s mouth. As such, it’s incredibly important that merchants do everything possible to ensure shoppers are finding accurate information when they search for their businesses online.

Here are five things that merchants can do to make it easier for shoppers to find their businesses when searching on their mobile devices.

1. Start with an internal review. “You must have your own information organized internally. It’s remarkably challenging to keep track of even the most basic geodata for multiple locations across an organization. Working across organizations to gather all the relevant local content for your location footprint is incredibly challenging, and marketers need a data management plan. If you don’t keep correct information internally, how can you expect other services to?” (Wendi Sturgis, Yext)

2. Claim your business profile. “Merchants should claim their business profiles on top sites like Google, Bing, Yelp, and Facebook. Claiming takes some time as your profile must often be verified by postcard or automated phone call, and is sometimes subject to a review period of indeterminate length. However, there are shortcuts available to some businesses, such as instant verification of your Google profile if you have already verified your business website via Google Webmaster Tools.” (Damian Rollison, Universal Business Listing)

3. Maintain an updated website. “Merchants shouldn’t solely rely on third party listings for their online presence. Additionally, their websites should have all the key business details in text, as opposed to embedded in images, so that they are crawler friendly. Business details on a website should match the business details being submitted to data aggregators and local search properties.” (Vikas Gupta, Factual)

4. Make seasonal profile updates. “If you’ve used local search to find nearby businesses, as most of us have, you’ll note that there’s a big difference between online profiles with no photos and little helpful information and those that make a statement with engaging content. Why not spruce up your online profiles with holiday-themed photos, posts about sales and specials, and anything else you can think of that will make your profile more appealing than the competition? Consumers are looking for a reason to choose your business over other similar businesses. What’s more, many of your competitors are neglecting the opportunity to market themselves in local search, so it doesn’t take much effort to make your profile stand out.” (Damian Rollison, Universal Business Listing)

5. Complete a location audit. “In order to effectively and efficiently execute your local digital marketing strategy, you should first assess the current status of your locations. Knowing simple things — like how many more locations have you opened, closed or moved? Updating your location database ensures the data which you are using to build your digital presence is current, consistent and correct.” (Manish Patel, Where2GetIt)

6. Stay active, especially during the holidays. “Maintain an active digital presence on your website, social profiles, and listings. As you change your schedules for the holidays (different hours, pop-up locations, etc.), be sure to update it online. At Yext, we’ve seen huge surges in search volume for information like hours and addresses for businesses like supermarkets on major holidays. During the holidays, your customers are looking for the information, so be sure they find the most accurate details and don’t show up at your door after you have closed early.” (Wendi Sturgis, Yext)

7. Engage with a listings management company. “Merchants should think quite hard about engaging with a listings management company to help them manage their online presence. The data flows in local search ecosystem are complex, convoluted, and ever-changing, making it difficult for merchants to navigate on their own. It can be burdensome for an individual merchant to try to stay on top of this on an ongoing basis — there are many experts in the space that can not only save a merchant time, but also execute better.” (Vikas Gupta, Factual)

Interviews have been edited for length and clarity.

Stephanie Miles is a senior editor at Street Fight.

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.