What ‘local’ means in a digital retail context

The Internet may have expanded the boundaries of where merchants can sell, but don’t ignore the ‘neighbourhood’ factor

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Local retailers in a digital era

A lot has changed since Molson struck a patriotic chord with its “I Am Canadian” ads back in 2000.

Actor Jeff Douglas retired from his iconic role as Joe Canadian and now co-hosts CBC Radio’s As It Happens. Canadian corporate icon Molson merged with U.S. brewer Coors in 2005.  The “I Am Canadian” campaign was shelved the same year. No wonder; what would be the slogan for the newly merged company, “We are (still) Canadian … sort of”?

Here’s what hasn’t changed in 14 years: consumers still go loco for local marketing. Most Canadians went crazy for Molson’s ad campaign because it acknowledged the cultural differences between Canada and the U.S. Local equals unique, distinct.

Today, taking a cookie-cutter approach to marketing still doesn’t cut it at the local level. Whether it’s Revlon, eBay and Home Depot in China, or Target here in Canada, ignoring local nuances can lead to an epic marketing failure.

So how do you go local? We’ve written a lot in this space about how organizations can deploy digital and omni-channel technologies to improve customer service. Those same technologies are also becoming must-haves for marketing, especially at the local level.

Why bother with local marketing when the Internet has turned the world into more of a global village than ever before? According to a webinar hosted by Virginia-based consulting firm BIA/Kelsey:

– 97 per cent of consumers use the Internet to shop locally

– although national brands account for the bulk of mobile marketing spending, 50 per cent of all mobile consumer searches include queries for local information

– national retailers and other brands are leaving $50 billion (yes, billion with a B) on the table by not tapping into local markets

“It’s really about understanding what we call the local digital neighbourhood,” said Abid Chaudhry, senior director of industry strategy and insight at BIA/Kelsey. “(Local) is where brands can most intimately interface with consumers. It’s how they utilize digital media in that area that can make the biggest impact in turning marketing efforts into actual conversions.”

A study released in April suggests they’ve got a long way to go. It gave 125 out of 150 American brands a score of zero out of 10 when it comes to local digital marketing. (The section on top-ranked Whole Foods sheds even more light on how to do local right.)

As Chaudhry explained in the webinar:

– premium mobile marketing offers real-time local content to consumers in two key ways: as location information (“here’s our store nearest to you”) and as engagement (a call to action, like a virtual coupon, referring to a specific local store or branch office)

– digital “does local best” by providing marketers with real-time data on consumer geography, timing and intent

– big data is crucial to targeting local customers by first understanding their preferences

– “Omni-channel media seem to yield a higher lift ROI for marketers than using individual media channels on their own.”

That last point means pushing messages out to various devices and platforms isn’t enough; neither is monitoring several social media networks in an ad hoc way. And without big data capability, there’s lots of noise but little insight. An integrated omni-channel platform may be your best bet to pull them all together.

As Joe Canadian proved for Molson, it pays to go local, eh?

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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