Adding Clicks To Your Bricks: Local Search for Physical Retail Stores

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Once upon a time, the brick and mortar store and the virtual store lived on opposite sides of the tracks. Today, things have changed, as small and niche retailers embrace the online world and services such as shopping apps and social media not  just for fun, but to keep their brick & mortar store relevant with the new tech savvy shopper.

Your customers are socializing online. Working online. Shopping online. But when it comes to finding products to buy at nearby stores or simply searching for stores nearby that they may want to visit, where do they turn? Their smartphones. A great way to maximize your sales is through capitalizing upon local search. In this post, we’ll go over what exactly local search is all about, and then we’ll cover some key ways to make sure your business is on the (local) map.

How Local Search Works for Retail Shops

One way to think about local searches? They’re like an interactive yellow pages that provide customer reviews, directions and photos in addition to the basic 411. Local search engines make it easy for customers to connect with businesses close to them. If a customer is searching for a rug and carpet retailer, for example, the customer might enter “rugs” into the search box on their phone’s browser or an app that helps them find stores nearby. Once he or she has entered “rugs” as their search term, the search engine or app delivers a results for rugs and rug stores; most options have been reviewed by customers and are rated based on a star system. Customers usually go with the business with the most reviews, photographs, information and highest ratings. Search engines and location-based apps like Yelp and Foursquare work hard to put local businesses like yours on the map so that nearby shoppers know where you are, what you offer and what the buzz on your shop is.

Where Retailers Should Invest Time

You spend time every day making sure your store is clean and attractive, both inside and outside; spend time making sure your online presence is appealing to potential customers, too. Local search marketing can be a time consuming task, but we aren’t telling you that you need to be a search engine optimization specialist. What we are telling you is that the place to start is simple: local listings. When your local listings online aren’t kept up, you risk turning off your local customers… if they even find your local listing. So, where should you invest your energy and time? Some of the main players in local search that smaller retailers should pay attention to are: Yelp, Google Places, Google Plus, Foursquare, Facebook Local and Bing.

Here’s a quick cheat sheet on what the main players in local search do:

  • Yelp: a local guide that functions as both a local search engine and as a place to leave and read reviews

  • Google Places: displays local businesses at the top for relevant local searches

  • Google+ Local: a function of the Google Plus social network that allows users to search for local businesses

  • Foursquare: a location-based social networking app for friends to follow real-world activities

  • Facebook Local: a function of the Facebook social network that allows mobile users to search for nearby locations while being able to view the business’s Facebook profile

  • Bing Places: a function of Bing that displays local businesses at the top of search results for relevant local searches

  • Yahoo Local: a function of Yahoo that displays local merchants and acts place to read and leave reviews for those businesses

How to Get Started to Show Up in Local Searches

Getting started on local search engines is a relatively simple process. We’ll use Yelp as an example on how to get your business registered and ready.

  • First, log on to Yelp and ‘claim’ your business: Yelp provides you with detailed instructions on how to do so.

  • Once you’re all set, you can complete your profile by adding uploading attractive photos of your retail floor, entering your website’s url and providing the best contact numbers for customers to call.

  • Be sure to mention any amenities your store offers, such as complimentary coffee or the ability to do self checkout from a smartphone!

  • Encourage customers to review your store by asking them to (whether you ask in person or on a sign).

Now that you’ve got the handle on Yelp, move on to Google+ Local, Foursquare and Yahoo, etc.: they all work in a similar way. You’ll find it gets easier as you go. For more detailed instructions on setting up your local search profiles, here’s some great guidance.

Getlisted.org is a great online resource for retailers and businesses to use: the site has a tool that helps you see which local listings your store has and which one you need to create or claim.

Key Takeaway

Services such as Foursquare, Google+ Local and Yelp can help you succeed, if you let them. One of the challenges in retail is getting the word out about your business. But shoppers are searching for nearby stores and products everyday. Are they finding you? Or are you making it easy for them to find your competitors?