After contributing nearly 30 Local Search columns for ClickZ, I still hear rather frequently from my peers in the advertising, marketing, and interactive space: Why does local search get so much attention? Isn't the concept of local search fairly straightforward?
Let's step back for a moment.
U.S. consumers demand instant gratification. It's the leading reason people continue to shop in local stores after researching products online. They don't want to wait 10 days to try out their new flat-panel TV or sweater. They want to see and touch the product before making a purchase.
According to a JupiterResearch study, online sales penetration will stabilize in 14 of 23 product categories over the next five years. While this may not be great news for Internet-only retailers, the expected plateau could prove advantageous for retailers with both on- and offline channels. And the amount of online consumer research continues to grow as online purchases stabilize. JupiterResearch indicates that 86 percent of online shoppers say they research their offline purchases online.
As consumer preferences change from traditional to new media, sites such as ShopLocal are augmenting the Sunday circular and are at the intersection of enabling advertisers to take advantage of this sea change. For traditional retailers to remain relevant in an environment where product selection is increasingly driven by online research, they must focus more resources on the online local search marketplace.
Online consumer research can be leveraged to the benefit of retailers, if done correctly. How can you insert your business into the process? Having a Web site is a great start but doesn't end there. How do you get your site, products, and services found by consumers? Here are a few tips for becoming competitive in a retail market driven by local search:
Bottom line: local search may seem simplistic, but if your local business, products, and services aren't being found, your competition is winning.
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Brian Wool is VP of content distribution at Localeze, a Chicago-based local search company. Established in 2003, Localeze specializes in connecting consumers with local merchants through online content collection, enhancement, and distribution. An expert in local Internet search marketing, Brian leads the distribution efforts at Localeze and is responsible for content delivery to over 35 leading search engines, Internet yellow pages, and local directories. Brian previously held various sales and marketing positions at comScore Networks and Claritas.
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