Most entrepreneurs have the urge to think big and grow their businesses. As a retailer, this can mean expanding to other locations and setting up multiple stores in other cities or states. And while this is a perfectly sound strategy, growing your business isn’t just about developing your physical retail footprint. In many cases, you can take your business to the next level by focusing on your existing stores, their local areas, and ways to increase your local retail presence.
Which is exactly what we’ll discuss in this post. In the following sections, we’ll shed light on the steps and tips you could follow to increase your local retail presence and maximize your sales in the neighborhoods that you’re a part of.
Let’s get started!
1. Put your store on the map (Google Maps, that is)
One of the most important steps you can take when it comes to retail store marketing is setting up a strong business profile on Google.
Research shows that 90% of consumers who visit a retail store used online search before heading to the retail location. People are clearly turning to Google when searching for retailers to visit. It makes sense to get in front of these consumers.
You could reel them in by having a complete and detailed Google listing. Ensure that your business is listed under the right category. Keep your company details (address, phone number, operating hours, etc.) updated.
It also helps to have strong visuals, so upload photos of your storefront, interiors, and products, to give people a sense of what your shop looks like.
And strive to collect user ratings and reviews. According to BrightLocal, 82% of shoppers read reviews online when looking up local businesses, so it’s imperative to display great feedback when they encounter your business online.
Check out this example from the pet supplies store The Diamond Collar, which in addition to having 100+ positive reviews, has a number of photos showing what the store looks like.
2. Let people shop your local inventory
Already got the basics of your Google listing covered? Take things a step further by showcasing your local inventory in search results.
There are a number of ways to do this.
First is by using a solution like Pointy (acquired by Google in 2020) to populate the “See what’s in store” section of your Google Business profile. With the software enabled, you can display your real-time in-store inventory online, so people can see what you have in stock before heading into your store. Pointy does this by connecting with your POS or inventory management system, and syncing your catalog in real-time.
Going back to The Diamond Collar, the retailer’s listing on Google displays the products that the shop has in-stock, so customers can check what they have before coming in.
If you have money to spend on ads, consider running Local Inventory Ads (LIA). As the name suggests, this advertising model puts your products in front of people searching for them. So, if someone is on the hunt for a red dress, and that’s something you happen to have in-stock, you can showcase that item through LIA.
This can be done through Pointy, though you can also implement LIA through Google’s advertising platform.
3. Improve your business directory presence
Google is arguably the top business directory when it comes to online search. But other major websites aren’t far behind. Yelp and Facebook, in particular, attract a significant number of consumers who are searching for small businesses.
Just like with your Google Business profile, optimize your listings on these websites by keeping your business info accurate, uploading photos of your establishment, and collecting lots of positive reviews.
Both Yelp and Facebook offer social-centric components like business check-ins, which can bolster your presence on these directories. Find ways to encourage your customers to declare their presence online by “checking in” on Yelp or Facebook when they’re in your store. Check-ins seem to be a ranking factor, particularly on Yelp, so this could help your business appear higher on Yelp search results.
The restaurant Taste Tea Cafe encourages check-ins by offering a free drink upgrade to customers.
4. Localize your inventory
A great way to increase your local retail presence is to offer goods and services that reflect the needs and preferences of your local neighborhood. Keep your inventory in top shape by paying attention to data and trends in your area. What are the top products that sell during this time of year? Is there a big event coming up in the community? What’s the weather like?
The answers to these questions can influence your stock management decisions, so keep an eye on your sales and inventory data, encourage your associates to gather qualitative information, then make decisions from there.
Localizing your inventory is particularly important (albeit tricky) if you’re running multiple stores. While all your shops need to offer a consistent experience, they also have to be unique and have a local flavor to them. The best way to accomplish that is by stocking items that are in demand in each store’s respective neighborhood.
One retailer that succeeds in localizing its inventory is Target, which according to CBInsights, “conducts community-based research — including listening sessions with local guests, groups, and community leaders — to best understand what to offer at a particular location.”
5. Participate in “shop local” initiatives
Research programs that encourage people to shop at local businesses, then find ways to participate. Get your business listed, obtain marketing collateral, and get on board with “shop local” events.
Small Business Saturday by American Express is one of the biggest local shopping initiatives that take place each year. The event, which takes place every November, drives tremendous buzz, traffic, and sales.
In 2019, Small Business Saturday hit a new record, with an estimated $19.6 billion in reported spending.
6. Run a local advertising campaign
One of the quickest ways to get in front of local consumers is to put money behind your campaigns. Advertising on sites like Google and Facebook will enable you to increase your local presence online. And the good news is that both these sites have targeting capabilities that allow you to get real specific on the audiences you want to reach and where they’re located.
For best results, call out the city or town in your ads. This could be an effective way to get people to stop and pay attention. If they see an ad for a cool store right in their neighborhood, they might just stop by!
When the Amazon-owned brand Rivet launched a pop-up store in Los Angeles, it ran an ad campaign specifically calling out LA shoppers.
7. Apply for — and hopefully win — local awards
Aside from prestige and bragging rights, winning awards can improve your reputation and boost staff morale — both of which can drive sales. To that end, see if there are any awards in your city or community that you can enter. Check out your city’s website or have a look at the local Chamber of Commerce to see if there are any accolades up for grabs, then put your business in the running.
8. Get featured in the local news
It doesn’t hurt to get some publicity for your store. Compile a list of people who write for local news outlets and blogs, and find ways to connect with them.
The best way to grab a journalist’s or blogger’s attention is to approach them with something newsworthy that’s relevant to their audience.
Are you launching a new product? Revamping your store? Do you have an interesting backstory to tell? Explore these questions and come up with a unique angle or pitch that you can use.
Consider inviting members of the press into your store to get an exclusive peek at what’s going on.
Sidenote: this could also work for social media influencers. Reach out to locally-known social media users or “micro-influencers” in your niche and work with them to market your biz.
9. Hold or sponsor events
An effective way to make your presence known in your community is to host local events. Depending on your business, this could be anywhere from a class or workshop or an in-store function where you invite a subject matter expert to speak on a topic.
The latter, in particular, can be quite effective because it enables you to tap into your guest’s audience in addition to engaging the community.
Vroman’s Bookstore in California regularly holds author events and book signings, which help drive traffic to the store. The bookshop continued the practice through the pandemic by holding virtual events.
Events are an investment of time and resources. To help that effort pay off, remember to make certain your store is customer ready by completing store walks or inspections.
Are shelves stocked? Is the parking lot is swept? Are staff dressed appropriately? Do you have special event materials in place? You can use a store inspection software like Bindy to create customized checklists for your operations and special events to ensure no details are missed. And, checklists can be location or team specific. So if you have an event at your store in Detroit, only your Detroit team will have access to the necessary materials.
Best of all, you can reinforce best practices by attaching supporting materials, like merchandising planograms. Request photos from your in-store team so that no matter where you are, you know your store’s event is ready to go.
10. Offer discounts to local residents
Show the locals some love by giving them access to exclusive discounts or promotions. This is an effective tactic that encourages consumers to come back, particularly if many people see your business as seasonal or if you cater to tourists.
Theme parks such as Disneyland and Universal Studios in California, for example, offer discounted passes to residents of Southern California. All you need to do is show them your ID to avail of the offer.
11. Team up with other neighborhood businesses
Join forces with non-competitive business in the area and come up with ways to promote each other. This could be as simple as giving each other a shout out on social media or displaying marketing collateral like flyers in your stores. If you have a stronger partnership consider larger initiatives like co-hosting events, partnering to create a new product, or running shared promotions.
We can see this in action in the example below, where the shoe retailer Runner’s High teamed up with Orangetheory Fitness (OTF) by giving an exclusive discount to OTF members.
Going big in retail doesn’t always have to mean a bigger store or more locations across the nation. In many cases, you can “go big” within your local community. The ideas above are just some of the things you could try to increase your local retail presence.
We hope this post sparked your creative juices! And regardless of what initiative you decide to try, having the right tools can maximize your success. Most of these ideas require a series of steps and jobs, so utilize task management software that allows you and your team to stay on top of all your to-dos. Then once your initiatives go live, audit and evaluate them to ensure that they’re executed properly.
Francesca Nicasio is retail expert, B2B content strategist, and LinkedIn TopVoice. She writes about trends, tips, and best practices that enable retailers to increase sales and serve customers better. She’s also the author of Retail Survival of the Fittest, a free eBook to help retailers future-proof their stores.