Many consumers carry out product and pricing research online before buying at a local brick and mortar store. A 2010 survey by BIA/Kelsey and ConStat confirmed that 97 percent of consumers investigate future purchases using online media.
- 90 percent use search engines
- 48 percent use the online Yellow Pages
- 24 percent use vertical sites
- 42 percent use comparison shopping sites.
The intentions of “Bricks and Clicks” to aggressively expand their online commitment is reflected in the statements from two of the biggest retailers in the US:
“45% of in-store visitors pay a visit to homedepot.com first.”
– Hal Lawton, President Home Depot Online
“We know that 60% of our U.S. store sales are influenced by our customers’ experience on bestbuy.com.”
– Brian Dunn, CEO Best Buy
A Performics/ROI study reported 32 percent of consumers use mobile search more than they use search engines on their home computers.
Consumers want to know the locations of nearby stores and how far they need to travel to find what they need. Other important information includes operating hours, telephone numbers, products and services offered coupons and special offers, purchase and in-store pickup procedures.
Smart retailers are answering these questions through their digital storefronts.
The Digital Storefront Defined
A digital storefront is the online representation of a single or multi-location brick and mortar business. Each store location is depicted by a landing page that users see when they search for a business on Google, Yahoo, Bing and business information directories like YellowPages.com, SuperPages, Yelp and others.
Here are some examples of where a digital storefront can be found:
- Your Current Store Landing Pages
- Google Places
- Yahoo Local
- Bing Maps
- other business directories
Manage and enhance your presence in these search engines and directories by consistently displaying all of your business data yields significant results:
- the engines and directories deliver accurate information to users
- your store achieves higher search rankings, more traffic and higher sales
Optimizing The Digital Storefront
Digital storefront optimization is essential to growing search traffic through local and organic search results.
Failing to optimize your digital storefront for Local SEO can result in lower customer satisfaction and tarnish the value of your brand. Plus, market opportunities for each location or dealership are lost. Many retailers overlook the very information users are looking for.
That means a significant number of potential customers are not being addresses properly:
- 20 percent of searches across Google properties are local
- 40 percent of mobile searches are local
An example of a retailer that has optimized its digital storefront on the Web and Mobile is Sports Authority. Since this retailer has multiple locations, it used scalable digital storefront software to maximize its marketing opportunity.
||Mobile Web Version
Thanks to practicing these techniques, Sports Authority’s regional stores achieved multiple 1st page positions for the keyword sporting goods, in the market locations it serves.
How To Accomplish The Desired Results
Six basic features users want and search engines seek on a local digital storefront page:
Images: storefront, products, manager, employee of the month, services.
Location Information: address, phone number, hours of operation, holiday hours, available in-store services, special announcements.
Promotions: coupons, loyalty programs, events, tent sales, community events, sponsorships.
Social Influencers: Facebook, Twitter, Google +1, Yelp and others, check-ins, Likes, sharing, share via email, share via text, text to phone.
User Experience: click to call, click to driving directions, text to share, loyalty sign-up, gift card purchase/management.
Rich Media: video, YouTube, product images, tutorials, testimonials, reviews.
Five basic steps to optimize a digital storefront for search engine and directory visibility:
Location Pages. Build a location page for every location and update conscientiously. (Whether there are one or one-thousand store locations, the process is the same however, using Web Store Locator Software to generate store location pages is more scalable and efficient.)
Mobile Pages. Build a mobile location page for every location with a user-friendly mobile interface.
Local SEO Best Practices. Optimize each location’s landing page with updated information such as local descriptions, content and Microdata or RDFa mark-up to help the engines and directories gather all details about each location.
Submit To Engines and Directories. Submit individual location landing pages to each local search engine and directory. Optimize Maps and Google Places pages, linking location landing page URLs.
Submit To Information Services. Submit landing page URLs and updated business information to Information Services that feed IYPs. Use bulk feeds to submit to InfoUSA, Axciom and LocalEze.
This does involve a lot of tedious and repetitive work, however to compete in the competitive economy that is making it difficult to survive, it is effort that should be considered an investment. They dividends will be worth it when they pay off.