Why Online Locations Matter Even More in the New Retail Landscape

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In 2014 an event took place that would forever change the retail world. Quietly and without great fanfare mobile internet usage surpassed desktop usage for the first time in history. There are now approximately 6.8 billion mobile devices in use today and those mobile devices account for 30% of global internet traffic according to comScore.

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Mobile internet traffic: The big 3
In the wake of the mobile revolution three major players are dominating the consumer landscape. For mobile social media, Facebook is the undeniable leader with 1.58 billion Monthly Active Users (MAU) with 823 million using mobile devices. Facebook is also providing location information to Instagram’s 400 million monthly active users. In this way, having locations on Facebook gives companies access to nearly 2 billion people a month.

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Meanwhile, the mobile search engine of choice is without a doubt Google with over 90% of searches being conducted there.

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Finally while it may be surprising to some, Foursquare has emerged as a powerhouse network, not for its social media influence but rather as a “location data warehouse” selling detailed location information based on its billions of check-ins and user ratings to thousands of apps and services. Foursquare is also providing location data to Twitter’s 300 million monthly active users and Pinterest’s 100 million users who have pinned content to a location over 7 billion times! In addition to their MAU, Foursquare boasts nearly 8 billion check-ins, 65 million locations, and 90 thousands developers as shown below.

Forusquare 4th ImageAs smartphones and tablets have grown in popularity so has the amount of time people spend using them to access the internet each day. The average American is projected to spend almost four and a half hours a day using a mobile device in 2017 (3.5 hours in app and 1 hour on the web).

Device time 5th ImageThe mobile path to purchase: It’s social
All of this online activity translates into huge opportunities for companies to gain exposure both through traditional digital ads and also through social advocacy. Examples of social advocacy are someone posting that they are at a restaurant, liking a company’s page, or sharing a post from a company with their friends. When this occurs a subset of that person’s friends will see a post in their feed regarding what happened.

When it comes to exposure, few things can trump social advocacy in terms of its effect on brand recognition, brand recall, and purchase influence. Social advocacy essentially means that a person’s friend supports a company and that is a powerful influencer.This is nothing new; it’s just the digital equivalent of telling a friend about a restaurant or asking how they liked a movie.  According to a Nielsen study, people who are exposed to ads including social advocacy are up to four times more likely to make a purchase from that company. An ad with social advocacy can be a simple as a Facebook news feed ad that includes people who have “liked” the parent company.Social ads 6th Image

The mobile path to purchase: It’s effective
With internet access on the go consumers are using the wealth of information available to them to conduct research on products and services across social media, maps, and search engines. Consumers are often searching for businesses near them and those searches frequently result in a purchase in the-searched-for-location according to Search Engine Watch. 78% of mobile searches result in a purchase in a local store.

The mobile path to purchase: It’s fast
One of the more striking features of this new information-on-the-go age is that consumers are now acting on purchase decisions quite rapidly. What this means for companies is that there is a small window of time in which it is possible to compete for a consumer’s attention. Companies cannot afford to be passive anymore and having a website just isn’t enough.

Purchases 7th ImageHaving each and every location in a chain listed online can mean a big difference in sales as people are generally looking for a nearby store to make a purchase in the very near future.  According to a Google, 50% of consumers who conduct a local search will make a purchase in a physical store within 24 hours and one in three consumers search for a search for a store immediately before visiting it.Reaction time 8th ImageThe mobile path to purchase: It’s complex
In order to compete in this information rich environment businesses have been presented with a new and complex challenge: to win the battle for consumer attention they have to appear wherever customers are looking. Not only must business show up in “near me” searches on Facebook, Google, and other social media, search engines, and map services but the information there must be correct, rich, and up to date.

This online presence includes the creation of brand pages and online location pages complete with business listings (opening hours, directions, phone number, address, business category, etc) as well as proper branding and official images. What customers are most interested in knowing specifically are a place’s address, any business with the products and services they want, its phone number, and opening hours, along with other details as shown below.

Business Info 9th ImageThe mobile path to purchase: It’s all about locations
Since customers are generally looking for local places to shop, and are often making a purchase shortly after initiating a search it stands to reason that online locations will be the major sources of traffic for chain businesses and franchises and PinMeTo’s data supports this idea. Across our portfolio of customers we’re seeing as much as 35 times more views on location pages compared to brand pages. Over a recent 28 day period one of our clients had essentially no unpaid activity on their brand page, while their 30 locations generated over 3.5 million views!

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The views being generated by the location pages are not only giving the company a huge volume of brand exposure, but since a large percentage of these views are viral (meaning that they are people seeing the actions of a friend) they also have a strong social advocacy aspect. Due to the volume of brand exposure involved in organic and viral views it becomes obvious that consumer behavior is a factor that should not be ignored.

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Looking even more closely at what is generating all of this organic activity reveals that the vast majority of unpaid views are coming from people checking-in at locations. When someone “checks in” to a place a post is generated with a link to the company page and this post is visible to the person’s friends. This is a powerful form of social advocacy and can be used to retarget ads in very effective ways.

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The mobile path to purchase: It’s mandatory
Companies spending money on online advertising today without ensuring that all of their locations are published and up to date online are missing a huge opportunity to capitalize on consumer behavior. Online locations should be a cornerstone of all marketing activities for physical stores because they leverage social advocacy, increase brand awareness, and increase purchases that begin with a local search.

Customers are becoming better informed, acting more quickly, reacting more on friend’s activities, and doing all of this using social media, maps, and search engines. The time for ensuring that all of your locations are online and have rich, enticing, and correct information is now. The opportunities for sales will continue to increase, but only for those who are leveraging the power of acting locally online.

andre-tiwariAndre Tiwari is COO of PinMeTo, an online location marketing platform specializing in helping chains and franchises reach all customers on all relevant platforms by developing robust, information rich, and properly branded online presences for all of their locations. He can be reached at [email protected].