You’ve invested in market research into your customer base and you’ve developed a catchy strapline to lure them in-store with a brand promise.

You’ve commissioned some beautiful photography for the national campaign and secured high-value ad placements to engage your target customers. Sparked into action by the TV, print ad, and billboard working in harmony, they are triggered to engage with your brand. Your marketing strategy is working beautifully.

That is until they use their mobile phone to engage with the local store.

They key in your brand name to Google. The first thing that pops up is a poor rating for the nearest location. The photography, unlike the glossy billboard ad, is average. The opening hours are incorrect or, even worse, the local store the customer is searching for isn’t open on the day in question or has been closed altogether.

By failing to optimise at the local level, the brand has failed to deliver its promise and your customer starts scrolling for alternatives. This is an all-too-common experience for so many brands. They have invested millions in their branding without investing in the attention to detail required to understand how customers search and shop. In today’s challenging high street conditions. this isn’t just a nice to have, it is essential to get this right for the health of your business.

The key to winning at local is understanding how people access your brand. It’s estimated that 50 percent of us use Google to search for local information. This is of course driven by the astonishing uptake in mobile internet access. According to the most recent ONS figures for 2017, 73 percent of adults accessed the internet ‘on the go’ using a mobile phone or smartphone, more than double the 2011 rate of 36 percent.

However, your phone isn’t only your communication tool, your entertainment, and your source of information, but also your navigational tool and, increasingly, your payment method. Your phone is the digital footprint of your everyday life. Google understands this, and it’s crucial that retailers understand it too. Google, of course, just reflects the nature of how people are searching. Search for ‘parking’ and Google won’t show you what parking means or the history of parking – instead, it will show you information about where you can park in the local area, because this is what you are interested in.

The same applies for any brand. The first thing Google will tell you is where you can locally access this brand with a map and store information. It’s the same for Facebook or indeed any other digital way of interacting with your brand. So how can you optimise your brand for the local experience? There are four questions you need to ask yourself.

1. Can consumers find your locations, and the right information pertinent to their search?

In other words, have you enriched your local data? For a retailer, this would mean correct opening times, good local photography, and relevant product information. This needs to be accurate on the full suite of platforms, from Google to TomTom to Facebook to Apple Maps. This is also where technology can really help. The right technology platform will enable you to do this in real time across all your locations and maintain this level of accuracy. Get this right and our research shows you can expect an ROI of 3:1

2. Is there relevant local information about your products and services based on your location?

This is about pulling out key relevant local information to boost contextual local search. If a gym is the only one in an area with a swimming pool, this will need to be pulled out and flagged to ensure keywords are optimised. Ideally, you should also create unique landing pages to attract people searching for local swimming pools. The same principles apply if you are a retailer offering late-night shopping. These pages will get more visibility and you will be able to maximise the opportunity for people searching for these terms. Take your national content and make it relevant locally.

3. Are you appealing with engaging local experiences?

Once you have your location ready and your content localised, go after your customers with appealing local experiences. A retail client of ours wanted to increase traffic to their pet products area. We created a promo on Britain’s celebrity cats and dogs and made it relevant at a local level with testimonials and local celebrity pets. We then drove them in-store or to ecommerce experiences depending on the priority of the brand in different areas or distance to a local store.

4. Are you personalising the experience for converted customers to generate repeat purchases?

The rich seam of information provided from customers’ sales histories will identify crucial local information. For instance, if they live near a beach and their history shows they have bought beach gear at a certain month in the past, you can suggest other relevant products at the right time of year, whether it’s sunglasses, beach bags or sun cream. The more touchpoints you have with the customer, the better the targeting – and the more relevant the offer. Localised data presents a rich picture of customer behaviour.

The crucial factor in all of this is putting the customer at the heart of your business. Remember that when they search for your business, they expect a business to deliver a local response. This will allow you to connect with your customers whoever, and wherever, they are. If you don’t take these steps in the challenging current conditions you will lose the trust of customers and they will go with rivals who have taken these steps. In a world of high street closures and increasing choice, a locally optimised strategy is the best strategy to survive the turbulence and remain relevant.

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