Little by little, life is starting to regain a degree of normalcy. COVID-19 vaccinations are ramping up, people are venturing out of their quarantine bubbles and businesses are slowly coming back to life. While much remains to be seen about post-pandemic life, one thing is certain: Consumer habits have changed over the past year. Now, more than ever, businesses need a plan to meet customers where they are and lure them back.
Ask any marketer and they’ll tell you that meeting customers where they are was a challenge before COVID. The digital age has unquestionably and fundamentally changed the expectations of consumers – they want what they want, when they want it. Businesses – particularly multi-location businesses – were already navigating this terrain when the pandemic hit. But now, customers have adopted entirely new shopping habits with a year of pandemic life under their belts.
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It’s easy to see how businesses with multiple locations could feel overwhelmed. How are they supposed to compete with larger companies on customer experience or market based on that experience? Can they get a leg up somehow? The answer is yes if marketers can act on customer experience instead of just listening to it. Technology exists to help brands harness the pulse of business today and leverage the myriad of customer interactions to their advantage. The savvy businesses – or the smart ones that get skilled partners – know to start their work at the front door of business.
The Front Door of Business
As customer expectations have evolved in the digital age, so too has the marketing field. Advertising and inbound marketing still have their place but the real battle for customer experience is now online – on the channels that businesses need to influence, like company listings, online reviews and ratings. Brands, prospects and buyers are now 100% intertwined in this ecosystem. And the majority of these customer interactions can be found in one common location: Google.
Data illustrates how Google has become the front door of business today:
- Google currently holds 92% of the total search engine market share.
- Google searches for location-based businesses in 2020 were up over 100% from 2019.
- 87% of consumers read online reviews for local businesses in 2020.
- 75% of consumers prefer to engage with brands through private messages over traditional channels.
- 86% of people looked up the location of a business on Google Maps.
- 76% of people who searched for a nearby business ended up visiting the location within 24 hours.
Google presents both a challenge and opportunity for marketers since customer interactions affect how businesses are found online, and in turn, how they engage prospects and customers. This is why multi-location businesses need a dedicated Google strategy.
The Recipe for Success
A comprehensive Google strategy should have three components: Listings-driven SEO, Google reviews and messaging. A true Experience Marketing platform, adept at empowering the entire customer lifecycle, will optimize a company’s Google presence.
1. Listings-driven SEO:
A multi-location business that wants to be found online first needs to claim and create its Google My Business (GMB) listing. Then, a Google strategy should optimize that listing and ensure the business details stay accurate and relevant. This step is vital for search engine optimization (SEO) and determining how potential customers will find and interact with the business online. GMB listings should go beyond basic information and offer helpful resources for consumers, like images, posts and announcements. With a robust GMB listing, a multi-location business establishes authenticity and trust with customers.
2. Google reviews:
Because the majority of consumers today read reviews before making a purchase, it’s imperative that multi-location businesses have a strategy for Google reviews. And that strategy should entail more than just fresh reviews. The right Experience Marketing solution will offer brands the opportunity to automatically respond to reviews, display company reviews in Google’s Knowledge Panel, showcase review highlights and star ratings, and crosspost business reviews across social media and relevant websites. Google reviews are essential to marketers because they help businesses get chosen and rank higher in search engines.
3. Google messaging:
The final piece in a comprehensive Google strategy is Google messaging. This functionality enables messaging and quick replies between consumers and businesses. Marketers should look for a platform that offers Google messaging from a unified inbox and alerts them to messages. Multi-location businesses should also be able to manage, assign and track conversations at the brand level. The key here is brands can engage with prospects and convert leads while they’re hot. Businesses need to remember that today’s consumers are empowered and they expect instant responses to any and all messages.
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The Lever to Pull
As the country opens back up and begins to navigate post-pandemic life, brands will need help. To drive customers back into stores, it’s imperative that multi-location businesses meet them where they are, act on their interactions and deliver on their expectations. The solution isn’t as daunting as it sounds. Marketers just need to pull the lever on Google.