Local Misdirection – Would You Give a Customer a Wrong Address?

The logical answer is of course “no.” However, in practice many large brands do this continually by allowing bad and incomplete data on their locations to exist on the numerous local search sites. A core reason this continues to happen is often due to structural issues within the brand’s marketing organization.

It is not unusual for a brand to vest responsibility for online local listings with the digital marketing or e-commerce division of the company. This seems logical – the listings are online, therefore it should be the responsibility of the “online or digital” folks to take care of these. The problem with this structure is that most digital/e-commerce departments are only measured based on the online sales they generate and local listings and local promotion drive sales to brick-and-mortar physical locations. In fact, many companies are so siloed that the digital/e-commerce department is in competition with the physical store division. The net effect is a huge sales opportunity missed.

Why is this so important to get right? According to the just released 2014 Local Search Usage Study, done in partnership by Geary LSF’s 15miles and Neustar’s Localeze – conducted by comScore – 78 percent of local-mobile searches result in offline purchases. Full disclosure, I work for Geary LSF and 15miles.

Here are a few symptoms you can look for to see if your company has gotten this wrong:

All hyperlinks from local listings point to the homepage or into the e-commerce portion of the site, instead of the location-specific page. An example:

local-result1

The three links here lead to the homepage “wrong address”:

sleep-train-1

Versus sending the customer to the location-specific page or “correct address”:

sleep-train

Interestingly, a customer is forced to make three clicks to get from the homepage to the information they requested in the first place. Hence the title to this article: “Local Misdirection – Would You Give a Customer a Wrong Address?” If we try to force a customer into an e-commerce session when they are seeking brick-and-mortar stores, we are, in effect, providing a wrong address. This fact can be seen by understanding what consumers are looking for when they make a local search:

search-graph

The majority of consumers are looking for location-specific information such as hours of operation, telephone number, address, or driving directions. Business website is a distant fourth in priority.

According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, online retail sales generate about 7 percent of total U.S. retail sales, which means 93 percent of retail sales are completed offline. Consumers do not exclusively divide themselves into “online” and “off-line” groups. Instead most off-line purchases, again 93 percent of retail, start online with consumers researching products (Search), seeking recommendations (Social), making comparisons (Shopping Engines and Websites), and then seeking where to buy and directional information (Local and Mobile Search).

It is time that chief marketing officers and/or chief executives rethink how local online marketing initiatives are assigned and then tracked through to success. The consumer engagement path is not a straight line. Integration of both on- and off-line lead generation, promotion, advertising, and attribution must be integrated across the various disciplines of the company.

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