Local Searches Are Up — What That Means for Your Business

Colleen Egan, Writer

The advent of online shopping was once considered the beginning of the end for brick-and-mortar businesses. But research data and anecdotal experience continues to show that the internet hasn’t actually replaced the in-person experience.

In the past two years, mobile searches for “can I/to buy” plus “near me” have grown by more than 500 percent, and mobile searches for “shopping near me” have grown by more than 200 percent, according to Google. This is promising news for small and mid-size businesses (SMBs), which may benefit when consumers want to shop local.

There are some key benefits to shopping in stores, and motivation for doing so varies by consumer age and gender. For example, 63 percent of millennials and 66 percent of Gen Xers value the instant gratification of in-store product availability, according to research by Oracle Bronto. And 74 percent of baby boomers most appreciate the ability to see, hold, and try on products before they buy. The same research found that women value in-store promotions and discounts (85 percent) and dressing rooms (73 percent) more than male shoppers. But it was more important to men to have a sales associate assist them with their purchase.

With this data in mind, let’s take a look at how SMBs can boost their online presence and reputation to attract customers and, once they do, how to optimize the in-store shopping experience for consumers.

Build a strong online presence.

More consumers might be searching online for local businesses, but they’re not going to find you unless you have a robust presence. If you don’t already have a website, set one up (it’s easy with Square). It’s also important to create and maintain social media accounts. Make sure to post information like hours, special promotions, and, of course, a link to your business website.

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Foster a trustworthy reputation.

Would you trust a business with nothing but bad online reviews? Your customers wouldn’t either. If you haven’t already, you should add or claim your Google My Business listing. This will enable you to build up a collection of customer reviews on your listing.

You can also respond to their reviews. If a customer posts a negative comment, you can step in and try to resolve the situation, which is something that potential customers will see. Make sure that you also check your reviews on other popular platforms, like Yelp. And make sure that you respond to reviews and clear up any misinformation.

Create a singular shopping experience.

Consumers who are shopping in stores want their experience to feel personalized, and technology is part of that. Sixty-nine percent of millennials and 61 percent of Gen Xers report that they have high expectations for retailer technology use, according to Oracle. Additionally, 45 percent of millennials say that it is important for retailers to offer Wi-Fi. This can range from smart fitting rooms to enabling sales associates on the floor to ring up purchases, which allows customers to avoid long checkout lines.

Also, consider adding buy online and pick up in store capabilities. Not only is it a convenient option for shoppers but also, when customers come to your store to retrieve their orders, it’s more likely that they’ll stay and make additional purchases.

Colleen writes for Square, where she covers everything from how aspiring entrepreneurs can turn their passion into a career to the best marketing strategies for small businesses who are ready to take their enterprise to the next level.