Want Them To Shop? Get Social.

I spoke the other day at a meeting on the topic of search engine optimization.

Empty Store Front (Dixon, IL)

(Photo credit: wayne’s eye view)

The folks in the audience were neither SEO professionals nor particularly interested in the field.  They were, however, smart enough to recognize that good SEO, particularly local SEO, can be a huge boost to their clients.  Like all good salespeople, they knew that if something mattered to their clients it needs to matter to them.

It turns out that their focus on becoming more visible in local search is a critical element in retail success.  I’ve come across a couple of things that demonstrate it.  The first is a KPMG study:

Asked which technology-related trends are having a significant impact on their business, a leading 71% of retailers pointed to social media, with a majority also citing mobile/online shopping (52%) and mobile/online promotions and coupons (51%) as significant influences, per results[pdf] from a KPMG survey. The researchers note that “brick and mortar stores are now viewed with newfound potential,” largely as a result of new social and mobile technologies.

This is reinforced by research conducted by comScore for UPS:

Mobile and social channels continue to change the way consumers shop – 46 percent said they are less likely to comparison shop when using a retailer’s mobile app, and 47 percent said they want a retailer to send a coupon to their smartphone when they are in-store or nearby. Not surprisingly, 84 percent of online shoppers use at least one social media site. Among Facebook users – the most popular channel – 60 percent “like” a brand to receive an incentive or promotion.

Obviously, being discoverable, particularly in mobile search is important.  However, if retailers – especially small businesses – aren’t actively working to boost their social presence, which is a factor in local SEO along with reviews and listings, they’re missing a huge opportunity.  As I’ve written before, actively supporting social and doing it well can be a huge time suck for a small business (or any other business for that matter).  These businesses are unlikely to use an automated product (which is probably a good choice anyway).  I’d think of it as spending an hour doing customer service, even if that hour is spread out over a few 15 minute sessions.  It’s too good and important an opportunity to ignore, both for SEO reasons and for the opportunity to stay front and center with your customer base.

Any local businesses you know doing a good job on this front?  Does it make a difference to you?

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