From ethics to aesthetics, shopping local comes with a bounty of benefits. Local restrictions, working from home and a growing preference for digital transactions have catapulted our shift to online shopping. In some instances, this has made it really difficult for small business owners to compete. Luckily, shopping local has also come to the forefront of our minds and hearts. With nationwide campaigns and local initiatives calling consumers to keep it in the community, hope remains strong for shopping small and shopping local. As the owner or leader of a local business, how can you sell more to your local audience? Focus on these 3 areas right now to help drive local sales as a business owner.
To distinguish your business amongst competition, ensure you’re accessible. When the high streets are closed or some customers don’t feel comfortable coming to you, how do you go to them?
1. Sell more locally by looking the part
With 63% of shopping occasions beginning online, it’s not enough to simply be local anymore. Even in instances where your customers buy in-store, they will have, more often than not, researched the purchase online first. Take these simple steps to make sure you’re present and found, no matter where they are looking.
A website for your local business
Create your own online storefront with a website that represents your business and offering. This doesn’t necessarily require e-commerce functionality. We’ll discuss alternatives to selling on your website next month, but step 1 is to get that presence.
Build authenticity and credibility with a website that looks and feels as much like your offline experience as possible. Invest time and effort into making sure your imagery feels like your store, and your content sounds like your voice behind the counter.
How can you emulate this interaction and close relationship online? Ask your local Nettl team to help you create an online presence for your business that will have your customers feeling at home.
Remember to keep your ear to the ground for local and national initiatives like the Digital High Street Fund that offer financial support to businesses building their online presence and functionality.
SEO and PPC to drive local sales
You’ve built a beautiful website. It looks and feels more like the real thing than you would have ever dreamed! Your customers who go direct (type your web address into the url bar) are loving it! How can you grow, though? On the high-street, passers-by see your shop window. Online, you need to be found on Search Engine Result pages.
PPC is like SEO’s cousin, they’re related, but pretty different. It stands for pay-per-click. A really popular method of PPC marketing is Google Adwords. You bid on search terms where you want your website to appear in the ads section of the results (usually the first 3 results on the page with a small ‘ad’ beside them). Use PPC to get your website present among the search results relevant to your offering quickly. Beware that because of the bidding nature of this, PPC ads tend to increase in cost year-on-year as you, and your competitors, out-bid one another.
This free tool is invaluable to your business when trying to sell to local audiences. Once Google identifies that you offer the service or product being searched for in a consumer’s local area, you’ll appear right up near the top of search results in that Google business section. Keep your account accurate and up-to-date with frequent improvements, to build and maintain this trust. Get your customers to leave reviews and make sure you’re publishing posts and engaging with questions to have an elevated presence in the search engine results page, all for free!
Social media; strategy, content, shop on social
We mentioned above that the majority of shopping occasions now begin online. Consumers check social media to get a feel for a business, see their product and understand their brand and values. Create a consistent posting schedule to show you’re open and active. Plan your posts in advance to improve the flow of your feed and continuity of design and themes across your marketing. Join Facebook or LinkedIn groups for your community and engage with the other members to meet more of your local consumers, all whilst growing your share of voice.
Plugins like Facebook for Woo-commerce can enable you to take your online offering to platforms like Facebook and Instagram too. We’ll chat more about this next month!
Shop local social media tip; Create a series in which you shout-out local businesses on a weekly basis, share news local to your area or run a competition to get everyone involved!
2. Get your local community talking about your business
Whether it’s a chat with the postman or dropping by the neighbouring businesses, in-person, you are always networking with your local community. Getting involved with your local BID or networking group is a fantastic way for small business owners to spread their reach. That’s no different when trying to sell more online, especially when trying to sell online to local audiences. Make sure you’re doing something to grow activity in the 3 areas below in order to get your business in front of your local community online.
Online directories and support sites
Directories are a valuable platform to reach local consumers. Make sure you’re featured and your details are all up-to-date and accurate across online directories for your area. Support Sites are one example of combining a directory of businesses with a networking platform and support community. From Breda in the Netherlands to Cuyahoga Falls in Ohio, Dublin to Exeter, Birmingham to Liverpool and back to Manchester, Nettl studios have created Support sites across the globe to drive local business in their local areas. Make sure your business is listed on your local Support Site (just ask your local Nettl studio any questions you have).
Share advice around how your product or service can benefit local consumers.
Ask your local networking group to share your blogs or feature your advice in their newsletter.
Create a guest blog for other local businesses to feature on their site where the partnership will benefit both of your customer bases.
Ask for support and referrals from your customers and neighbouring businesses.
The beauty of cultivating an appreciation for local commerce is that you all have a huge common interest, more often than not you have many mutual contacts, and each have a common goal of making your local community better than it otherwise would be. A shift online, when embraced correctly, can amplify this even more.
Have you created your free Google my Business account yet? Go do that, now! Then, maintain and update it. This online version of your local storefront, featured high in Google search results, is a really impressive tool. Ensure you’re asking customers to leave reviews; this builds an online reputation and brand image that potential customers can explore when they’re deciding whether or not to do business with you. Having up-to-date, positive reviews, and plenty of them, also shows Google you’re a trustworthy and credible business (or err… website) and will help improve the trust they place in your site and, with that, the position they rank you in relevant searches.
3. Blend your approach to reach audiences near and far
There may be fewer people in your local area, or perhaps you’ve had to close your bricks-and-mortar business. That means you need to work twice as hard to get out there and reach your local consumers, both existing and new.
Make an impact by teaming up with your local Nettl studio to design and produce printed vouchers or gift guides to mail or drop to local residential areas. The brand awareness you would reap from creating a beautiful piece of marketing and sharing it with homes across your local community is immeasurable. However, include a QR code linking to your website on there, to help track the clicks and conversions.
Remember to make your marketing compelling! Brainstorm ideas with your local Nettl that will hit your local community in the feels.
In conclusion, shopping local and supporting your community has never been more important, nor has it ever been more topical. There are many things you can do and support you can avail of in order to make an impression on your local audiences and to sell more to local consumers online. When you are ready to start selling more to your local community, reach out to your local Nettl studio to get started.