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  • Writer's pictureLauren Goldberg

6 Ways to Use Digital Marketing to Drive Retail Sales

Updated: Oct 12, 2018

There’s no other way to say it: We’re living in a digital world. And marketers are responding. In 2018, marketers are shifting their budgets towards digital marketing. According to eMarketer, digital media will make up 43.5% of all media spend this year and is projected to overtake traditional media channels by 2021.

But how does that affect traditional retailers? Does digital really drive sales into stores? The short answer is YES! Creating an online presence for a physical store isn’t only smart, it’s table stakes these days. According to Bright Local’s 2017 study, 97% of consumers looked online for a local business. Digital marketing doesn’t just drive dot com sales anymore!

You don’t need a digital army to get it done. Retailers of any size can leverage these strategies to drive traffic on a local level.

1. All retailers need a website

Even if a retailer doesn’t sell online, they need a website. And more importantly, it MUST be optimized for mobile. According to Google research, two-thirds of smartphone users are more likely to purchase from brands whose mobile sites personalize the experience based on their location, such as displaying a nearby store where a product is in stock.

For local retail businesses, make sure the website contains:

  • Links for all contact info (phone, address & maps). Make it easy for people to get to you!

  • If you have multiple locations, it’s highly advised to have a page for each location within your website.

2. Ensure all locations are able to be found online

First, make sure your “Google My Business” listing is 100% complete for all locations. A complete listing will include:

  • Correct address – this seems like a no brainer, but so many businesses have the wrong address listed. Use the official USPS address, including the 9-digit zip. You want to make sure all GPS-tools (Waze, Google Maps, Apple Maps, etc) can find you!

  • Description – This is where you can include all of your services. For example, if you are a restaurant, list delivery and catering services if offered.

  • Store hours – let customers know when you’ll be ready and open for business. This is critical if different stores in a chain are have different operating hours due to local traffic patterns.

  • Photos – Include a few quality photos of your storefront and inside of your location.

3. Encourage customer reviews

When looking for a new restaurant, service provider or store, do you look at online reviews? If you said yes, you are not alone. Per Bright Local’s 2017 study, 85% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.

To get reviews (and stellar ones at that), note the following steps:

  • The easiest way is to simply ask. Put a callout on the bottom of your receipt & your emails. When in person, make sure the ask is genuine and doesn’t come off as robotic. I personally had a bad experience at a doctor’s office. I was checking out and almost in tears from my conversation with the doctor (No worries, all is fine now) when the receptionist asked me to give them a review on Google. The look of shock on my face hopefully made her realize that it wasn’t an appropriate thing to ask.

  • If a review isn’t glowing, take time to respond to the customer. Remember, your response will be public. There will be times that they are wrong and you are right, but regardless, be nice. Acknowledge their feelings and offer to discuss with them via email or private message.

  • Provide top notch customer service. This may seem like a no brainer, but encourage your sales associates to assume that every person they interact with is going to write an online review and mention them by name. With that mindset, they will roll out the red carpet and put on the white gloves for exceptional service.

4. Efficiently leverage paid search campaigns

Google is the search engine of choice for mobile, with 90% of searches Google has fantastic local search tools, from radius targeting to reporting on an individual store level. To set up a mobile-optimized Google campaign, be sure to consider the following:

  • Consumers now expect search engines to provide relevant results near them. Now customers are looking for places near them to get what they need NOW. Not only should you include terms like “near me” or “close by”, but “to buy” and “sells”. According to Google, “Near me” searches with a variant of “to buy” have increased 500% in the last two years.

  • Consider neighborhood descriptors and landmarks. For example, as opposed to “shoe store Boston”, utilize “shoe store Back Bay” or “shoe store near Fenway”.

5. Get Social

There are so many social networks these days, it’s hard to keep track of all of the features and benefits. But for local retail, Facebook is where you should focus first. Their ad tools line up great for the needs of local retail. To fully take advantage, note the following:

  • Make sure you have a page and that you are actively monitoring it. After Google, Facebook is the #2 place consumers go to look for reviews.

  • When setting up an ad campaign, make sure to use the “stove visit” objective and set the appropriate geo-targeted radius.

  • Set targeting criteria. Do you want to speak to people who live there and can develop into regular customers or people who are near your location?

  • Be creative. Utilize fun imagery, set up special events and use video. The more dynamic, the more your ad will grab someone’s attention

6. Establish your authority as an expert in your community by producing localized content.

You do not need to be an award-winning author or film maker to create standout content. It’s most important to understand your target audience and deliver content that solves a problem or need.

  • Good content is timely and solves a customer need. Create a calendar and commit to a regular cadence. It doesn’t have to be daily or even weekly, but consistency is the key.

  • Consider all of the different kinds of content out there and determine what makes sense for you and your audience. Localized content can include blogging, how to videos, podcasts, infographics, images, quick tips and more.

  • Produce content that makes sense for your local area. For example, if you were a running retailer, a blog post about “running through the seasons” would look very different in Arizona than it would in Maine.

  • Share other’s content, but make sure you give proper attribution. For example, a surf shop might do an infographic about “10 facts about sharks” to coincide with Shark Week. Chances are, the marketing team or owner of the surf shop isn’t a marine biologist in their spare time. In this case, a list from National Geographic could serve as the content, just clearly state where the data came from.

  • Distribute your content online. Your website and social networks are a great place to catalog and share information.

Check out my blog post "Content Marketing - Why Retailers Need to Go All In" for more details about how this can really move the needle.


The bottom line is, retailers need to be where their customers are. And customers are online. Per the Pew Research Center, almost a quarter of Americans say they are online “constantly”. So get in there!

If you need help with a retail local marketing strategy, please contact me here for a free strategy consultation.

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