Columnist Wesley Young looks at how far consumers are willing to travel to shop at local stores and how to use your store’s location to boost conversion of your marketing campaigns.
While much deserved attention is given to local SEO and SEM, showing up in search results is only half the job.
Google performed a study that demonstrated very little correlation between usage or traffic and influence. In other words, just because people frequently find your business doesn’t mean they choose your business or buy from your business. Rather, influence is achieved through consumer experience and matching your content to what consumers need or are looking for.
Conversion takes more than attracting attention — it requires engagement or connection with the consumer and matching what you are offering with what the consumer is looking for. More often than not, consumers look for location information when considering local stores to purchase from.
Local search conversion starts with location
In a study by MomentFeed, national brands report that 85 percent of all engagement with their businesses takes place on local media assets such as local landing pages. Local business characteristics drive conversion, whether for large brands or small businesses.
Arguably, the biggest local factor for consumer decisions when shopping at stores is location. In a national consumer study (registration required) on how far consumers would travel to shop, Access found that 93.2 percent of consumers typically travel 20 minutes or less when shopping for everyday purchases. Urban consumers (83 percent of all shoppers) prefer even shorter distances, with 92 percent usually traveling 15 minutes or less.
Distance was a far greater influence than price or quality of product. When asked what influences purchases, excluding travel distance, only 32 percent responded that best price most influenced their decision. Thirty-two percent likewise stated quality was the most influential.
Consumers also shortened the distance they are willing to travel for the most frequently purchased items, averaging only six minutes away from home for gas stations. Groceries and fast food may be slightly farther, averaging between eight and nine minutes, while home and garden and auto service average about 14 minutes away from home. Consumers tolerate the greatest distance for purchases of clothing and shoes, averaging almost 20 minutes from home.
Converting time consumers are willing to travel into miles is a little more difficult. There are a lot of variables such as traffic, mode of travel and roadway speeds. For example, highway access would extend the distance someone would be willing to travel, while someone in an urban neighborhood might use walking time as their standard.
Nevertheless, below are some measurements of distance based on time of travel by car per Google Maps. The travel is via direct routes on major roads (not highways) during a time of day with little traffic:
- 6 minutes = 2.2 miles
- 8 minutes = 3.2 miles
- 9 minutes = 4.1 miles
- 12 minutes = 4.9 miles
- 17 minutes = 6.6 miles
- 20 minutes = 9.3 miles
The results from Access provide greater insight into consumer tolerance for distance than the oft-cited (but of unknown origin) statistic that 80 percent of consumer spending is made within 20 miles of home. And it shows that consumers often want stores closer than even Google’s study found, wherein 72 percent of consumers searching locally visited a store within 5 miles.
Thus, we can estimate that consumers search for local businesses such as groceries, coffee shops, convenience stores, pharmacies, dry cleaners, gyms, household goods, mail/shipping services and gas stations that are within two to four miles of their location.
Given the importance of location to converting local search results into purchases, below are six tips for using location information to boost your local search marketing. If you’re interested in how to use location data for targeting, check out this previous article. The following tips focus on communicating location information that consumers seek when deciding where to shop.
1. Make location information easy to find
It’s easy to overlook the importance of making location information prominent on web pages or landing pages when designing creatives and content about your product or service. Especially with the current trend of large singular hero graphics and the need to accommodate mobile screen size, choices are frequently made on what content to keep and what to cut on the front page or above the fold.
Location is too critical an influence on consumer choice to sacrifice in those choices. Addresses, maps and cross streets that communicate your store location should be highly visible. If not on page one, conspicuous labels linking to location information need to be easy to find.
2. Use local landing pages for businesses with multiple locations
For multilocation businesses, it’s typical to have a dedicated page listing different locations with addresses, contact information and hours of each. However, with 85 percent of engagement occurring on local media assets, each location should have its own landing page, too.
Each location should have its own GMB (Google My Business) profile, Facebook page, website or landing page, Yelp listing and page/listing/profile on any other media platform on which the business relies. This will allow each to highlight maps, addresses, neighborhood and other location information relevant to itself.
3. Describe location in ways different audiences understand
While addresses are important, they may not communicate sufficient information for a user to quickly evaluate proximity. For example, even though I travel Preston Road frequently, an address of 1428 Preston Road doesn’t mean much to me. Preston Road is 30 miles long and traverses through Dallas, Texas, and the suburbs of Plano, Frisco and Prosper.
Including what neighborhood a store is in, the closest cross streets, what corner on the cross street (NW, SE and so on), and other recognizable nearby stores (e.g., Kroger shopping center) all help the consumer picture where a store is relative to what they know about the area.
4. Highlight proximity to popular landmarks
Since time and distance are frequently used to evaluate the convenience of a location, include those measurements in describing your location. For example, stating that your store is “five minutes from downtown Plano” or “half a mile off the Tollway” helps consumers digest location information quickly.
A significant portion of local business revenue (up to 33 percent) comes from out-of-town visitors. Not only are these visitors less familiar with the surrounding area, they are likely to visit certain destinations and then search locally for stores around them. Thus, describing your location relative to these tourist landmarks can help as well.
5. Location descriptions don’t have to be static
Since your store location is fixed, it’s easy to treat your location information the same (set it and forget it). However, today’s targeting methods allow businesses to reach different audiences with different campaigns and landing pages.
These different audiences will find different location information helpful, so tweaking your location information to fit those audiences will improve the response to your marketing. For example, when targeting locals, you might describe the proximity of your store to certain well-known neighborhoods such as, “located in Stonebridge Ranch,” a community in McKinney, Texas. On the other hand, ads targeting fans at a soccer game can reference proximity to the Toyota Stadium, while ads during Cowboys training camp can provide distance from The Frisco Star.
Use landmarks and proximity that will most resonate with your audience at the time your ads are served.
6. Use interactive maps
Maps are great, but static maps are limited in what is communicated. Zoom out too far, and it’s hard to illustrate precise location; zoom in too close, and you may lose context of what area of town you are in.
Interactive maps that don’t open in a separate app or window help the user stay on your page yet be able to adjust the map to the detail they need.
Consumers want to shop at stores near them. Younger consumers are even less tolerant of traveling long distances for everyday purchases — the Access study found that millennials were 16.4 percent less likely to travel more than 20 minutes for purchases. Thus, consumers will increasingly search for stores close to them. Target with and highlight relevant location information, and you’ll get a big boost in ROI from your local search marketing.
Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.