Welcome back for Part 2 in our series covering the top 10 trends shaping the future of local search. In Part 1, I shared the first 5 trends to watch in 2014 ranging from the rise of web-content and real-time marketing to the effects of mobile and social shifts. Now, let’s round out our list with the last 5 trends.
6. The Rise of Vertical Specialists
Whereas the beginning of the Web was about portals and general search engines, the next era will be dominated by category experts. Yelp is now a major destination for consumers looking for local restaurants and now they even offer delivery options. Apps like TaxiMagic help consumers find cabs quickly and easily. Just imagine this same type of innovation happening in every category in the future. Identifying and engaging with these unique discovery points before your competitors could help lock you into a customer base with tremendous lifetime value.
Tip: Get to know the vertical specialists in your category and learn how you can leverage their unique features and functionality for your local search program. Do they offer free listings? Are there paid opportunities to show to consumers as they’re looking for information about the goods or services you provide?
7. Widening of the Map
One of the major trends that local businesses are reporting is that consumers are willing to travel further than ever before if they feel that a business can truly serve their needs during their shopping journey. The daily deal revolution has proven this out as incentives have been able to pull in customers from areas that the businesses may have rarely serviced before. As consumers find more ways to discover local business locations, they will venture beyond their typical mileage radius for a preferred business, instead of settling for a mediocre one just because of proximity.
Tip: Push the limits on how far away from your location(s) you have historically marketed and carefully articulate the benefits of your business to incentivize consumers to come to you. Remember, it’s never been easier for a consumer to research you via search engines, reviews, comments, social media, etc. It might be quite viable to expand your local search program out to twice the number of consumers than you ever thought you could.
8. More Metadata for Listings and Directories
The main components of local search listings are commonly known as NAP: name, address, phone number; however, local has also grown to include ratings and reviews, photos, menus, offerings, and hours. It is also becoming commonplace to connect images and video to these profiles. Consumers are expecting more and more of this information, and if your listings don’t contain this advanced metadata when others next to them do, yours will appear to be bare and incomplete, which could reflect poorly on your business.
Tip: Make sure you stay on top of what data fields are available and take advantage of these extra opportunities to provide more information about your business. If you’re allowed to upload videos, you should. And don’t just check the box! Local search platforms are basically your always-on sales force so always put your best foot forward at these crucial discovery points.
9. Blurring of the Lines Between Online and Offline
Since the rise of the Internet, marketers have been trying to figure out how to best drive offline action from online advertising. Daily deals, coupons, and click-to-call features have proven to be very successful tactics, but these just scratch the surface. With more consumers utilizing intimate channels such as mobile and social, the opportunity to spur more online-to-offline activity in local circles is increasing.
Tip: Find new ways to engage with your local customers in the digital realm that can drive them to offline conversions. An example of this may include deal alerts either via opt-in SMS on the mobile or via your social connections. Use strong calls to action to create a sense of urgency, such as emphasizing time sensitive deals or limited edition specials.
10. Proximity Marketing
There are endless possibilities for proximity marketing, and it just may be one of the most exciting and imminent advances in local search marketing. To be able to hone in on specific location, and as a result, deliver media and creative with on-the-fly customization to communicate with consumers on a 1:1 level is pretty close to marketing nirvana. Although companies like Google are able to customize results based on the current location of a consumer, mass availability of proximity marketing opportunities still eludes advertisers. However, its time is coming.
Tip: Start brainstorming now on how you would generate awareness during consumer discovery research based on the searcher’s proximity to your location(s). What would you say to someone who is actively searching on your business category while one mile away? One block away? One hour away? Build your action plan so that you can start thinking in terms of proximity once these tactics are more accessible.
To learn more about local search, download your copy of The Skai Guide to Local Search. Be sure to also check out the presentation and recording of the accompanying webinar, Winning in Local Search: Top Trends for 2014.