Hyperlocal marketing has emerged as a key driver of consumer engagement. The State of Hyperlocal 2017 report indicates that marketers are investing heavily in social media, data, and analytics on their local campaigns. In fact, these areas represent the top spending categories across hyperlocal investments.
As consumers demand evermore personalized content and experiences, it makes sense for brands to invest in local tactics. The more customized their offers and messaging are, the more likely they are to establish long-standing relationships with their customers.
But in the rush to perfect hyperlocal strategies, companies must also attend to their national branding. Not only is a national strategy essential for raising brand awareness, but it’s also crucial for competing with e-commerce startups.
Many ecommerce entrepreneurs establish their shops with an eye to competing with major retailers. They’ve seen the big names achieve success, and they believe that they can offer faster, more modern services because they’re online-only. While early-stage startups lack the clout and capital to go head to head with big-name brands, they do have the agility to quickly grow their reach.
To stay competitive against new companies, brands need to take a two-pronged approach to their marketing: hyperlocal and national. The two should complement and reinforce each other, driving consumer confidence in the national brand while delivering a high-quality experience at the local level.
For example, my company works with Walmart to hyperlocalize its marketing around local grand openings. We opened 5,000 new and remodeled stores with the brand and supported customized campaigns for every location — not only in the messaging, but also in every aspect of the store launches. Strategies included partnering with local influencers to garner enthusiasm, hosting VIP sessions for local media, participating in popular community events, identifying local charitable giving, recognizing local growers and suppliers, and promoting job opportunities for area residents.
Brand loyalty truly starts at the local level, so companies need to get the public on board if they’re going to succeed. Establishing local relationships also fortifies big companies against criticism and long-term backlash. Brands need people who can provide critical feedback and tell them when they’ve made missteps. Some people will complain for the sake of it, but thoughtful critics can often become key brand allies within their communities.
One advantage larger companies have in local markets is the ability to deliver instant gratification. Customers can browse a website, find items they like, and pick them up from the brick-and-mortar store within the hour. There’s no waiting and no shipping fees. That’s a real advantage for brands that want to solidify their local bases while growing nationally.
Of course, people need to know that companies are locally established before they can enjoy these advantages. That’s why using localized SEO to get online visitors into brick-and-mortar locations is a great strategy for bridging the hyperlocal-national gap. Consumers research products and stores online before they buy, so national brands must educate people about their local presence.
A Google study revealed that 50 percent of smartphone-based searches motivated customers to visit local stores within a day, and approximately 18 percent of those people made purchases. These numbers illustrate the importance of hyperlocal advertising and how it can impact a national organization. A brand’s ad content should reflect the broader company in its tone and mission, but keywords and phrases should be customized by geography.
Mobile marketing tactics such as geo-based push notifications and discounts can also prove valuable for driving people to physical stores. But companies must ask for permission to track customers’ geo and behavioral data. Those that disregard privacy standards risk serious outrage from their communities.
Service is the name of the game for customer retention, and brands with brick-and-mortar locations hold an edge here as well. People enjoy the personalized recommendations they receive from online retailers, but those automated touches can’t compete with the authenticity of friendly human contact.
Salespeople and customer service specialists should be trained to engage shoppers in authentic ways. For instance, they should take note of frequent customers and make efforts to get to know them. Personal styling and product curation services also motivate people to keep returning to the store.
Social media plays a key role in winning over local consumers as well. Consistently posting interesting photos and updates, as well as soliciting customer content, makes people tune into what the brand is doing. They’ll share posts with their networks, further raising the brand’s profile in the area.
Finding the hyperlocal-national balance requires a keen understanding of what works in different markets. Executives should include regional marketing managers in their strategies, as these people know what will resonate with the local audience. However, it’s important to set boundaries. All marketing initiatives must align with the national brand. The voice should be authentic and informed about local trends and preferences, but it shouldn’t seem off-color or out of character to consumers.
None of this is to suggest that national brands should ignore their e-commerce offerings. People want to shop online, and relevance is linked to companies’ abilities to meet their tech-driven demands. However, providing excellent digital service alongside great local experiences will elevate savvy brands across all their target markets.