Local marketing for retailers: How to get more customers into your store

It’s probably the thing that keeps you up at night.

Just how do you drive more foot traffic to your store?

In short: a local marketing strategy. 

When done right, marketing your business to locals increases awareness and puts your brand in front of the right people, which ultimately drives sales. 

In this post, we’ll walk you through the ins and outs of local marketing. You’ll learn what it is, why it’s important, and how you can make it work in your business. 

Let’s dive in.

What is local marketing?

Simply put, local marketing refers to the strategies and tactics that businesses use to get in front of shoppers in their local area or neighborhood.

Sometimes called “neighborhood marketing”, effectively promoting your business to local shoppers can involve everything from implementing SEO and digital ads to running promotions and events.

Why is local marketing important?

Investing in local marketing is essential if you want to increase your business’ visibility. People won’t visit your store if they don’t know where to find it — or worse — if they don’t even know you exist. If you want a steady stream of visitors to your shop, you need to get on people’s radars.

These 5 local marketing tactics will help you do just that. 

1. Claim and set up your Google My Business account

Picture this: you’re attending a friend’s baby shower in a few hours and still don’t have a gift. 

What do you do?

If you’re like most modern consumers, you’ll whip out your smartphone and Google something along the lines of “baby store near me.”

That’s called a local search. Local searches are becoming increasingly common.

Industry data shows that 46 percent of all searches have a local intent, and that the demand for local information on Google (i.e. queries that contain “can I/to buy” and “near me”) increased six times over the past couple of years.

People are clearly turning to Google for their local search needs, which is why the search giant should be a critical component of your local marketing strategy.

The first step to doing that is to create a Google My Business account.

local marketing stats

What is Google My Business?

For the uninitiated, Google My Business (GMB) is a service that allows business owners to create profiles that appear in Google Search and Maps. 

GMB is beneficial to businesses and consumers alike. The service gives merchants more control over how their business appears in search results, while consumers can find and discover local businesses with just a few clicks. 

How to set up your Google My Business profile

The first step to putting yourself on Google’s map is to create your GMB profile. Here’s how:

Step 1: Sign in to your Google account, then head to google.com/business. Click “Manage Now.”

Step 2: From there, GMB will ask you for some basic details about your company, including your business name, address, business category, phone number, and website.

Step 3: Once you’ve filled out the signup form, you’ll be asked to verify your business, which can be done by mail or phone. If your website is using Google Analytics or Search Console, you should be able to verify through those platforms. 

Optimizing your Google My Business profile

Creating a GMB profile is just the first step. There are tons of other merchants using Google My Business, so you need to beef up your listing to stand out. 

Include as many details about your business as possible

In addition to supplying basic contact info about your business (name, address, phone number, etc.), go the extra mile by including details like your operating hours and business description.

You should also upload photos to showcase the inside and outside of your store, as well as the products that you sell. 

Bike Stop Outpost, a store that sells cycling gear and equipment, offers an excellent example of a GMB profile done right. Aside from listing its basic business info, Bike Stop Outpost also has several photos on its Google listing to give people a better look at its store. 

bike stop outpost google my business

bike stop outpost gmb

Show your local inventory

Speaking of giving people a glimpse of your store, why not show them what you have in stock? Having your inventory on your Google listing gives shoppers a better idea of what they can find in your location. And if you’re selling something they need, the chances of them walking through your door increase dramatically.

On its Google listing, Bike Stop Outpost has a section called “See What’s In Store,” which displays the shop’s current stock and even lets users search the store’s inventory. 

see what's in store

Collect lots of reviews

The vast majority of consumers — 97% according to PowerReviews — depend on reviews when making purchase decisions, so you can bet that the people checking out your business will be looking for reviews. 

You should always make sure that consumers like what they see when they view your profile. Encourage your happy customers to rate and review your business on Google. You can do this verbally with chatty customers or you can take a more subtle approach by having GMB stickers and marketing collateral in your location. 

google local marketing

Pro tip: visit marketingkit.withgoogle.com to get free stickers, posters, and social media templates you can use to promote your business.

2. Utilize local search ads

Having a strong GMB listing is essential, but if you want to take your Google game to the next level, you should consider investing more money in your efforts. In other words, why not try paid search ads?

Search ads are particularly useful if you’re operating in a competitive market and are having a hard time getting your site to rank. Google ads offer a shortcut to the top of search results, and they can help you gain more views, clicks, and inquiries. 

If you’re a retailer who wants to market to local shoppers, your best bet is to leverage products ads which put your products in front of nearby shoppers. 

Here’s how it works: if a customer searches for a specific product nearby, Google will show you ads from stores that sell the product. 

These local search ads can be a powerful tool for any merchant as people who search for specific products near their location are typically ready to buy. If you can get in front of customers at this stage, you stand a good chance of winning their business. 

<<Need more ideas for your store? You can check out a full list of retail marketing must-haves in our two-page checklist here so that you can get in front of potential customers.>>

3. Beef up your website for local marketing

Your website should accomplish two things: 

  • It should help people discover and learn more about your business
  • It should compel them to visit your store.

The good news is you don’t need a big fancy site to do this. By setting up your website correctly and displaying the right info, you’ll increase your online visibility and drive foot traffic at the same time. 

Optimize your site for search

Let’s start with improving your visibility online (particularly on Google). In order for people to find your site, it needs to show up for relevant search queries. This means that if you’re an art supplies store in Long Beach California, you want your site to show up whenever someone searches for your store or products on Google – for example, if they were to search for “art store near me.”

Start with keyword research

Kick off your local SEO strategy by identifying the search terms that your target customers are using. Use a tool like Google Keyword Planner and enter relevant keywords into the search box. 

Going back to the art store example, you could enter the query “art supplies” or “art supplies store long beach” to see what comes up. Google will then serve up a bunch of keyword ideas, which you can use on your website. 

google keyword planner local marketing

Do the same thing for the products you sell. Enter an item’s name or attributes into Google Keyword Planner to gain a better understanding of what your customers are typing into the search engine when looking for your products.

Incorporating the right keywords into your website

Once you know what people are searching for, make it a point to incorporate those keywords into your website by:

  • Including them in your title tags and meta descriptions. You can read more about how to do that here
  • Weaving them into your content — i.e. in your homepage copy, product descriptions, about page, headers, etc. 

Make sure your website contains all the right info

The next step is to encourage your online visitors to check out your local store and products. Be sure to include:

  • Your address.
  • Your store’s operating hours.
  • A brief business description.
  • The items that you have in stock.

The first three bullet points relay basic details to your customers. It’s essential that shoppers know where to find your store and what time you open and close, so they can plan their visit accordingly. 

And the fourth bullet point — listing the inventory you have in stock — can help drive foot traffic, particularly among local consumers who need to buy things ASAP. When your customers see that the items they want are available in your store, they’ll be much more inclined to visit.

Check out what Mantova’s Two Street Music is doing. Its website contains all the essential info that shoppers need when planning their visit, and it even lists the shop’s current inventory, so people know the exact items the store has on its shelves. 

pointy local marketing

Build links

Once you have your website up and running, you should get other relevant and reputable websites to link to it. There are several ways to do this:

  • Contribute to other publications – Consider publishing articles on relevant websites. If you run a hardware store, for instance, you could write an article about DIY for a local DIY website. 
  • Reach out to the press – Research local journalists who cover your niche. You can typically find them by looking at the editorial staff of your local papers or by taking note of the authors writing about your industry. 

Many  journalists are looking for sources they can quote and interview in their articles. When the right opportunity comes along, you want to be on their radar, so they can include your input — and website link — in their article. 

4. Invest in social media marketing

Lots of consumers spend a lot of time on social media, so it’s important to establish a strong presence on the social networks and apps relevant to your brand. When promoting yourself on social, your campaigns and initiatives will generally be classified into two categories: organic and paid. 

Organic social media marketing is all about growing your fans and followers naturally. In theory, you can do this by posting high-quality and shareable content, as well as by engaging with your followers and building relationships with community members. 

That said, growing your store’s presence with organic is no longer a sustainable marketing practice. The organic reach of brands on platforms like Facebook and Instagram has been steadily decreasing as these sites continue to build out their advertising options. 

Many retailers now have to “pay to play” to get in front of their audiences on social media. 

social media marketing

This is where paid social media marketing comes in. Social sites have various ad units that you can use to promote your business. On Facebook and Instagram, you can choose to “boost” your content (such as landing pages and articles) so your posts reach more people. 

If you’re looking to market specific products, you can opt for carousel ads that let users scroll through different products and then go straight to the item’s page if they want to complete the purchase. 

No matter what type of social campaign you’re running (be it organic or paid), you’ll get much better results by following these best practices:

Craft relevant and attractive posts

The social media landscape is extremely competitive, and there are hundreds of other brands and people vying for your customers’ attention. 

That’s why it’s essential that every piece of content you put out there resonates with your audience. How do you do this? For starters, use attention-grabbing imagery. Social media networks have evolved to become highly visual platforms, so you want your posts to look as attractive as possible. 

Second, write compelling captions. Don’t just type a caption on your phone and call it a day. Spend time learning the words and phrases that your audience would use (go back to your keyword research above) and then incorporate them in your posts. 

It also helps to mix things up. Identify the types of content that work best for your audience, and create a social media calendar that has a healthy mix of these posts. 

Check out the Instagram page of Ben’s Barketplace in Roseville, California. The page contains a mix of dog pictures, customer stories, and promotional content, so the retailer has a vibrant and interesting page. 

ben's barketplace insta

Target your content to the locals

If you’re looking to reach an audience in a specific area, make sure that your posts have a local flavor to them. Feature people from the neighborhood or talk about local trends. Put the spotlight on the best spots in the vicinity. You want your content to feel relatable to the locals, so the more neighborhood-specific they are, the better. 

And if you’re publishing updates about your business, be sure to tag your location. This is particularly effective when posting to Facebook and Instagram. People will be able to map your location with just a few taps, so having the right geotags can drive awareness — and ultimately inquiries and traffic to your shop.

We can see this tip in action in this post from Shawn Fine Wines & Spirits

instagram for local marketing

Maintain consistency and frequency

One of the keys to social media success is being consistent and frequent with your posts. Not only should you keep a continuous flow of content, but you should also ensure that the messaging of your posts is consistent with your brand and values. 

As Kevin Groome, the founder of CampaignDrive puts it, retailers should “be obsessed about brand consistency.”

“Remember that every communication (a sign, a counter-card, an email) will either add to or detract from brand equity, and resist the temptation to modify your brand look and feel. Use the same typeface in everything you do. Define a small color-palette, and stick to it.”

When it comes to paid social media marketing, Kevin says that frequency trumps reach. 

“It’s better to reach a smaller audience with more repetitions of your message than to stretch to reach a larger audience once and then pray for luck,” he adds.

local marketing

5. Get involved with the community

One of the top ways to boost your local presence is to be actively involved in your community. Make your presence felt by:

Sponsoring an event

Reece Mack, SEO manager at Trek Marketing, recommends that retailers sponsor local events. “This doesn’t have to have a money-based sponsorship either. It could be an in-kind contribution whether it’s a local bakery providing sweet treats or a local farmer’s market providing free water,” he says.  

“Starbucks is probably the most effective case study on this as the local stores often provide free coffee and hot chocolate to events if they provide a letter prior to the event. In-kind contributions free up some cash for pay per click advertising or social media advertising that is targeted to the location.”

Supporting a local cause

Is there a charity run going on in the neighborhood? Is the community rallying to raise funds for a specific cause? Find a way to get involved. Donate your time, money, or merchandise to the cause. 

Help local charities or organizations by promoting them on your platforms. That’s what Ben’s Barketplace did in 2018. To help raise funds and awareness for the American College of Veterinary Botanical Medicine, Ben’s Barketplace used its Instagram account to spread the word about the organization’s Go Fund Me page. 

bens barketplace

The bottom line

There are plenty of things you can do to beef up your presence in your community. The right local marketing strategy often involves a combination of online and offline tactics and requires consistency and commitment. 

The good news is that implementing local marketing campaigns doesn’t have to be a long and difficult process. By arming your business with the right tools, you can effectively get your brand and products in front of the right people. 

Pointy is a great example of such a tool. Pointy gets your products online and makes creating local search ads a breeze. Simply plug our device to your POS system or barcode scanner and your inventory will appear on your Pointy page automatically, so more people can find you and your products online.  

Need more local marketing help?

If you’re looking for additional marketing strategies and tactics, check out Pointy’s really honest guide to retail marketing. We’ll even throw in a two-page checklist of marketing essentials you can’t do without!

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