Retail Marketing: Drive Foot Traffic To Your Store with Location-Based Apps

Location-based apps have revolutionized the way consumers shop and the way merchants are discovered. They connect shoppers with the nearby stores and deals they’re most interested in. Pulling up an app to scout out a store or virtually checking in at a new location has become all but second nature for the smartphone-armed shopper. For smaller shops and niche outlets, location-based apps have the ability to transform retail marketing efforts by affording shop owners the opportunity to connect with a large existing user base.

Why Location-Based Apps?

Location-based apps are a powerful way to drive local foot traffic to small retail shops. Location-based apps such as Foursquare and Yelp have loyal, and quite sizeable, followings that make it easy for retailers to tap into. Yelp’s mobile app, for example, had an average monthly user base of 10.6 million during the final quarter of 2013; Foursquare states that it has a total of 45 million users under its fold.

You may not have created or claimed your store listing on any location-based apps yet, but that doesn’t mean you aren’t getting noticed as a result of their large user bases: most likely, your shop is already listed on these apps and you are already seeing some foot traffic and even sales as a result. Claiming your store could drive a lot more traffic to your showroom. Let’s take a look.

How to Leverage Location-Based Apps to Drive Your Foot Traffic

There are two main angles of approach when it comes to leveraging location-based marketing to generate buzz for your business. The first key way is going through the steps and “claiming” and managing your listings. The second key way to leverage location-based apps is through advertising or offering deals.

Claiming Your Business

Claiming your store is free – and vital – to do. Think of this as the virtual equipment to rolling out an open sign or turning the lights on. When you claim your store on a location-based app, you can provide important information, supply key photos and respond to reviews. To get started claiming your store on location-based apps, Search Engine Journal has some very clear instructions that make the process easy to understand. Once you’ve claimed a few, claiming more will become easier as you get the hang of it.

Managing your listing

Creating or claiming your listing is just the start. Now it’s time to optimize your listing in order to attract customers to your store. Make sure you add high quality images that show customers what your store is about and what type of items they’ll find when they arrive. Stay on top of your reviews and comments for each location-based app. If customers leave a positive review, thank them. If they are disappointed, apologize and tell them how you’re addressing the issue.

One other key part of managing your listing is to add your store’s website url. This is crucial for shoppers to see what products you have in  your store. The url you share through location-based apps must be optimized for mobile product browsing and mobile payments.

Advertising

Location-based apps allow businesses the opportunity to advertise targeted messages that reach your desired audience with ease. For example, with Foursquare, your ad displays not only when a user is nearby your store, but it also only displays to people that are most likely to shop with you based on their past check-ins. With campaigns such as these, you can start small and set a target budget (an amount you are willing to pay). Your ad will then be displayed to the app of choice’s targeted audience until you have reached your target budget. You can then decide to add more money to your budget, based upon the results you receive.

Deals & Coupons

One way that location-based apps maintain such an active user-base is through providing their users with reasons to keep coming back – and a key way to do this is through offering deals and coupons. Some location-based apps allow businesses to offer a check-in deal which rewards users for “checking-in” through the app and sharing this check-in with their friends on social media. The check-in deal is a strong way to build up word of mouth and buzz while enticing more customers to stop by and see what you’re all about. Another way to reward customers for shopping with you is offering a deal or coupon that can be purchased in advance.

Which Location-Based Apps To Focus On

There are new location-based apps coming out seemingly every day, and others dying… seemingly every day. For developers, it’s a scramble to create the biggest and best app to appeal to the largest base of users and and be at the top of this SoLoMo (social-local-mobile) revolution. For this post, we will focus on a few of the big names so that you can really maximize your results.

Yelp

Yelp has over 53 million monthly unique mobile users and offers several different advertising solutions to make themselves attractive to businesses – and you may want to take advantage of their service. You can purchase ads, featured search result listings or offer a deal that Yelp sells for you in which they keep 30 percent of the deal’s purchase price.  Yelp will also sell gift certificates for you (for a 10% charge). To find out more about Yelp’s options, visit their advertising home online.

Foursquare

Using Foursquare is a great way to reach a very social userbase of 45 million. Advertising on Foursquare depends upon how much you want to spend, and how many people you want to reach. It’s possible to create an ad campaign with just a few dollars – or to spend thousands. To connect with Foursquare, contact their business outreach department.

PayPal

With over 7 million active mobile app users, Paypal is becoming a more and more popular way to not just pay online, but also inside brick & mortar retail stores. Although known to date as only a way to pay on mobile, PayPal continues experiment on ways to add value beyond the mobile payment functionality through order-ahead, customer loyalty programs, and many cool features to come with PayPal Beacon, including hands-free payments without shoppers even having to take the phone out of their pocket, and tailored offers to encourage repeat visits.

Facebook

Not quite the “location-based app” but Facebook’s pretty powerful for helping businesses maximize their retail marketing efforts, mainly because they have a gazillion mobile users, or at least 1 billion mobile active monthly users at last count. Facebook’s Nearby Places tools is essentially their version of Yelp and allows users to search for nearby places, check in to local merchants, and write reviews. They no longer offer check-in deals, however you can create an online offer for free, and then you have the choice of paying Facebook to help you promote the offer. Beyond that, you can choose targeted ads and set your budget for as low as $5. Be sure to stop by their page all about advertising solutions for local business.

Let’s Sum It Up

Location-based apps for retail stores are really what you make of it. You can start small and get your feet wet by getting familiar with the many location-based apps and claiming your store (remember – it’s the digital equivalent of turning your lights on) and keeping your listing up-to-date with photos and responding to comments and reviews. Once you’re comfortable, move on and create a free offer over at Facebook and see what results that nets for you. If you’re interested in going beyond that point, you can start looking into setting a conservative budget to see how this targeted kind of location-based marketing works for your store.

Beacon Technology: What does it mean for retail stores?

Beacon technology will potentially revolutionize the customer retail experience. It brings a new dimension to interaction between you and the customer. So what is Beacon Technology? Well, it works on Bluetooth low energy (BLE) – which is used by a low frequency chip that is found in devices like mobile phones. These chips communicate with multiple Beacon devices to form a network.

iBeacon is a version of BLE software made specifically by Apple that was released with IOS version 7. In Apple’s case, this software pushes notifications to users as they walk around an Apple Store. But this is just the beginning; soon, independent developers and companies will be coming up with software tailored specifically for the Retail niche.

Before we get to why this matters and what’s in it for you, let’s quickly get out the way what some of you are thinking– What’s the difference between this new Beacon technology and that thing you read about awhile back…NFC?

Well, when looked at through the retail lens, NFC works only when your device is very close to the NFC tag to read the information– 10 cm or less. Whereas beacon technology can work within 70 meters of a beacon device. No scanning necessary. In addition, this system can pinpoint where your customer is in the store– microlocation– and relay specific information for them.

Cost factor

Each NFC tag costs approximately 10 cents due to it containing silicon which basically means 10 cents for every product. This represents a significant and recurring cost to small retailers– although it could make sense for small retailers with higher ticket items. On the other hand Beacon technology requires a one time significant investment in devices that broadcast information to smartphones. Estimote sells 3 devices for $100 which can be used in a 10-20 meter area. With time and competition, these devices will cost much less and will become more affordable.

Who are the big players?

Estimote: This is perhaps the best known of the players to use BLE for beacon technology. Their devices, which are in the testing phase, are small. Estimote integrates with many mobile platforms including iOS7.

PayPal: PayPal produces a USB device that is compatible with several POS systems: Vend, Leaf, Erply, Leapset, ShopKeep, Micros, Revel, and NCR. PayPal Beacon detects a shopper with the PayPal app on their smartphone (only if the shopper has enabled it), which then pulls up the customer’s photo on the merchant’s POS system for verification before the sale. If the shopper also enables automatic check-in, the complete experience and payment happens without even taking your phone out of your pocket.

Apple: Apple’s incorporation of this technology will probably be what gives it the biggest boost. As mentioned before, it’s IOS 7 software has the ibeacon technology built in. It is unclear if Apple itself will produce and sell the hardware for ibeacon technology but other manufacturers’ products will be easily compatible with it.

So what does this mean for Retail?

Analytics: The BLE technology will give retailers a greater insight into customer purchases. For example, retailers will be able to tell how much time a customer spends in each part of the store – and how they navigate the store. This is valuable information that can be used to optimize the in-store experience and increase revenues.

Loyalty: In the not so distant future, we will begin seeing this technology used to create powerful 1:1 offers for customers– on the spot (literally). This sort of customized targeting could, for example, use the customer’s purchase history and favorited items to come up with product-specific offers when they approach that item on the shelf. We all know these types of offers would convert very well!

Customer Service: You can expect a revolution in customer service alright. Imagine that as soon as a customer walks in to the store, your sales staff will know their name, what product categories they shop most, the items they browsed last time but didn’t purchase and what their spending habits are. Using this information, retail stores can create a better shopping experience and offer superior customer service.