How to Use Google Maps to Drive More Traffic to Your Retail Store

According to Google, 97 percent of customers shop for local businesses online; amazing, right? In the world of apps, Google Maps is a heavy hitter. It’s the most popular smartphone app out there, with over 54 percent of smartphone users who use apps using it to get where they need to go.

If you have a physical retail location you can’t afford to ignore this easy and free way to – literally and figuratively – get your business on the map. When your business is listed, you help your customers find you through different Google channels such as Maps, Search and Google+ and drive more traffic to your stores.

With 50 percent of smartphone users using a map app (most likely Google Maps) to find retail stores and 74 percent of smartphone users using location-based services, this is a service that’s becoming more and more relevant as the rise of smartphones continues. Shoppers are using both Google and Google Maps to find restaurants, businesses and retail stores. As Google doesn’t charge to list your business, this is a service you can’t afford overlook.

How to Get On the Map

To get started, you need to have a Google account (this account will work for all of your Google activities from Gmail to Google+). Next, you need to ensure your store is on the map. Believe it or not, the good samaritans over at Google may already have listed it for you; they may not have. To check, surf on over to Google Maps and search for your business. If you find it, you’ll need to ‘claim’ your business. If you don’t find it, you’ll need to ‘list’ your business.

To list your business on Google Maps, you’ll need to do so through Google Places for Business. First, sign in to your account and then create your business listing based on the instructions provided. If your business is already listed, you’ll need to claim it. You can do that by clicking on the corresponding clickable link that pops up when you pull up your business on Google Maps; from there you can choose the option to claim your business. You can get more detailed instructions on claiming your business. As claiming and listing your business can take a few weeks (Google doesn’t just put anyone on the map), it’s wise to get started right away.

Optimize Maps for Maximum Exposure

Optimizing your business for maximum exposure is an important part of your Google Maps strategy. Though getting on the map is the first, and arguably most important step, your work doesn’t end there. Learn to leverage Google to drive more foot traffic to your store. Here’s a plan to help you get more traffic out of maps:

1. Take Advantage of Google’s Free Features for Business

Google wants to be as complete as possible, so it provides lots of opportunities for you to upload information on your business. Start by making sure your Google Places/Maps listing is as thorough as possible. Add photos of your business. Fill out the hours. Provide a link to your website. Next, stay on top of customer reviews that are left for you. Google provides a forum in which customers can review your business; whether those reviews are negative or positive, it’s key to stay in the conversation and respond when a customer discusses your store on Google. Google provides a wealth of information on how to use their free features for big exposure.

2. Use Keywords to Your Advantage

Are there certain keywords or product words associated with your business? If you know a customer is going to be searching for a certain word associated with your store, such as “handbags”, it’s wise to make sure ‘handbags’ is in your Google Maps/Places description. Think of important keywords a customer might use to describe your business, and then include them in your Google description.

3. Encourage and Respond to Customer Reviews

Be sure to encourage your customers to share their experiences on your Google Maps page. Actual customer reviews go a long way in establishing actual trust and reputation within your community. Not only is it great for prospective customers to read reviews, but Google uses keywords from reviews to find relevant places for users. The Google Maps app makes it very easy for customers to rate and review your store on the go. It’s also critical that you monitor and respond to these reviews to show your customers that you care and are committed to making your retail store the best it can be.

4. Optimize Your Online Store for Mobile

Creating or claiming your listing, optimizing your store’s information, and generating and responding to reviews is an excellent start. But don’t stop there. Remember when you added a link to your website in your Google listing? Mobile commerce, specifically purchases made on smartphones, are on the rise. Often times a merchant’s website is not optimized for mobile. Other times a merchant’s mobile version of its site makes it simple to find store locations and contact information. But guess what? Google Maps already gives your shoppers your location, directions and phone number. So your website link you provide them in Google Maps should direct these shoppers to a great mobile experience for your online store. Prospective customers want a glimpse of what items you sell in your store before they visit in person. Make sure your e-commerce site is optimized for mobile shopping and makes checkout a quick and easy transaction.

If your store doesn’t have a mobile-optimized online store or no e-commerce store at all, a mobile commerce platform can be an efficient way to give your shoppers an instant mobile-optimized storefront for shoppers to browse your store’s real-time inventory and most popular items, see specials you’re running, and buy on the go. Shoppers can also order items and select in-store pickup instead of waiting for shipping if your mobile commerce platform is integrated with your point-of-sale system.

According to Google, 50 percent of consumers who search locally on their smartphones visit a store within a day. Don’t miss out on these customers. Optimize your Google Maps listing to help drive more traffic to your stores.

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