The Power and Shifting Meaning of Local

It’s likely that the term “local” means something different to you than it does to your cousin in rural Ohio. There’s a good reason for that: its meaning can change based on where you live.

If you’re a city dweller, for example, local might refer to the five-block radius around your apartment. But those who live out in the country think of local in much broader terms.

It stands to reason, then, that urban, suburban, and rural residents have different shopping habits in their “local” areas. Many marketers are investing in mobile location-based ads — BIA/Kelsey predicts US spending will top $26 billion this year — yet as a retailer your goal isn’t just to reach consumers but to connect with them by acknowledging their different perspectives.

Talking to your customers requires a customized strategy that prioritizes location and takes their everyday lives into consideration. Harnessing the power of local starts with knowledge: where your customers live, what they want, and how to deliver it on behalf of your brand.

What Does Local Mean to You?

Super commuters — those who travel to work more than 90 minutes a day — are increasingly common in the US. According to reports, from 2005 to 2016 the number of super commuters increased by 15.9%, amounting to about 4 million workers, or 1 in 36 Americans.

Compare that to the distance rural workers travel. One in five New Yorkers travel more than an hour each way, but most workers living in Alaska, Iowa, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, North and South Dakota, and Wyoming can get to work in twenty minutes or less.

There’s something else that differentiates urban and rural workers, and that’s the amount of time they spend at home. Those with longer commutes spend more time away and more time in a car and may even travel a greater distance for their shopping needs. This is something you’ll need to be aware of when identifying audiences for your location-based marketing campaign.

Speaking the Local Language

For marketers, the difference between an urban shopper and a suburban shopper might not seem significant, but it can actually have major implications for how you target and communicate with your customers. For one thing, fewer urban shoppers frequent big-box stores, while their suburban neighbors are much more likely to visit one of these retailers for their shopping needs.

Understanding this key difference between consumer segments is vital to ensuring that you send the right message to the right audience based on their shopping preferences and behavior. If your ideal customers are heavy big-box, hypermarket, or dollar-store shoppers, geo-targeting will be key.

Living and Marketing Locally

Familiarizing yourself with local communities is another crucial strategy for marketing to them effectively. Understand the special quirks and habits of locals, and make sure you adjust your marketing strategy to match.

Many states have regional holidays that you can leverage for promotions, so before you finalize your mobile ad creative, check to see if your campaign corresponds with Rhode Island’s Gaspee Days or Arbor Day in Nebraska. 

Demonstrating an understanding of, and appreciation for, the local community can ingratiate your brand with its residents while creating a bond between your business and potential shoppers. You wouldn’t sell Yankee caps at Fenway Park, right? Be relevant and respectful to your audience.

Local Lifestyle

The meaning of local changes based on the type of neighborhood you live in, but let’s not forget that technology can affect it, too. Brands like Uber and Lime have transformed communities. Uber has made locations previously unsupported by public transportation suddenly accessible, while Lime has made mid-size cities easy to zip around via scooter.

When reaching out to potential customers, consider how services like these might impact a retail center like yours. Outlets on the city limits are now easy to reach via a car service, thus influencing your audience’s shopping pattern. As these technologies progress, marketers will need to pay close attention to how they shape the local scene with an eye toward developing ads that take evolving consumer behavior into account.

Local marketing is a powerful thing — especially when you’re well acquainted with your target audience. Do your homework before you launch that location-targeted campaign. Wherever they live, your customers will thank you for it.

Dan Silver is VP of Marketing at GroundTruth.

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