If you are on the fence about investing into local marketing, Google may soon give you a clear reason to move forward.
Last month, SEW reported that Google will test “buy buttons” that make it easier for consumers to buy what they want directly through search results. The Buy button, living in ads that appear alongside search results, will reveal inventory and purchase functionality in special pages hosted by Google.
In other words, search results may lead consumers to purchase directly online and bypass brick-and-mortar storefronts completely. Although the Google Buy button is not an overt local search play, the pending program is a reminder to enterprises that operate local storefronts: you need to give mobile consumers a reason to visit your locations, or else they’ll choose the convenience of an online transaction.
Online merchants can already promote their stores via Google Shopping, and according to The Wall Street Journal, retailers (not Google) will provide and sell their own products. But with the Google Buy button, consumers won’t even need to leave Google.
As discussed in The Verge, Google will focus the program first on mobile devices because of the surging popularity of mobile.
The strategy makes sense. Google recently revealed that “near me” searches have surged since 2011, especially on mobile devices. Google also indicates that people conducting “near me” searches have especially strong and immediate purchase intent. Google wants to be the go-to place for more of those purchases rather than refer consumers elsewhere.
As The Wall Street Journal‘s Alistair Barr and Rolfe Winker write, “Google is making the changes because of the surge in smartphone usage. It said recently that searches on mobile devices now outnumber those on personal computers in 10 countries, including the U.S. and Japan. Shoppers are turning to mobile apps from Amazon, eBay and other rivals where their personal information is already stored and purchases can be done with fewer clicks. That reduces the number of lucrative product searches that Google can run ads alongside. In response, Google is making changes to its search engine and ad systems to provide information directly on its results pages, rather than giving them links to other sites.”
The potential launch of a Google Buy button is a reminder for enterprises to review their approaches to local search and make sure they are giving searchers good reasons to buy from them. For instance:
- Be relevant and engaging: give people a reason to visit your store rather than buy online. Your search results should not just describe what you do but sell what you do. If your stores offer free delivery, then your local page should say so. If you offer loyalty points for in-store purchases, then say so on your search results page. Play up your advantages in your results pages.
- Own the next moment of search, or the action that occurs after someone finds you. Go beyond compelling descriptive content and entice searchers with offers. Give consumers a 20-percent-off coupon to download into their mobile wallets and then once you have them in your store, lock them in as loyal customers by providing personal service they cannot get elsewhere.
- And, of course, don’t overlook the obvious: be visible. Make sure your name, address, and phone number data is accurate and easily found. If searchers cannot find your location, you might as well direct them to your competitors (offline and online). Consumers have too many options to give you a second chance if they fail to find you.
At the same time, enterprises should never panic. Local search will always be a fast-changing form of marketing, thanks to evolving consumer behavior, new technology, and fresh competition. Brands should take a measured approach to growing their local marketing strategies and practices. I recently outlined a way for brands to embrace local search via the Local Adoption Curve.
Whatever your approach, know that the next battleground for marketing is local search. Google just opened a new front to fight. But by getting closer to your customers through local digital marketing, you will win.