Local stores have faced an unprecedented array of challenges in recent years. From pandemic shutdowns to economic downturns, humble local stores have fought tooth and nail to survive in already grueling circumstances.
Smaller marketing budgets and fewer resources have made it difficult for local stores to keep the lights on as they watch customers move to online retailers and the cheaper prices of big commerce.
However, with a local store marketing plan that’s been specifically developed with these challenges in mind, local stores have a much better chance of turning around dwindling profits and actually thriving as a valuable part of their community.
Instead of focusing on Amazon muscling in on their business, successful stores play to their strengths and attract customers in ways that only local businesses can.
Local store marketing is the strategies and techniques used to create awareness and attract customers to traditional brick-and-mortar stores.
Because these stores are usually limited in terms of finances and human resources, local store marketing tends to focus on low-barrier-to-entry strategies, such as local SEO, as well as creative tactics to get maximum exposure for minimum investment.
The right approach to local store marketing is effectively the same as any other type of marketing in that you’ll need a well-researched strategy before you begin.
Your local store marketing strategy should include:
With a local store marketing strategy as your guide, you can feel confident that you’re properly channeling your efforts in a way that’s right for your business, even if you have to make some tweaks to your plans as you go.
Get started: Getting your NAP data (name, address, phone number) out there is a basic first step of local store marketing. Buy yourself the time to focus on your strategy and let Semrush’s Listing Management take care of distributing your listings to 70 directories. There’s one less thing you need to add to your to-do list!
The channels you choose for your local store marketing will largely depend on your overall strategy, budget and resources.
What works for one business might not be the way to go for another, so each needs to be considered on its own merits.
Google Ads and other search advertising platforms are very popular with retailers because they can generate interest quickly.
Local paid search targets people in your area, or searching about your area, based on queries related to your products and services.
In the example above, a store appears at the top of the Local Pack for “luxury shoe store in London” despite only having two reviews and an average rating of just 3.5.
Connecting with your local community online can earn you customer retention and a positive reputation in your area, but growing social media channels for a local store organically can be tough work.
Actively encourage current customers to follow you and engage with other local businesses and community groups. Post images of new products and in-store events to create a buzz that people will want to share and comment on.
It might be worth investing a small amount on social media advertising targeted at the local area to get things moving, especially if you have a discount or event to promote. Social media ads are often a cheap way to get new followers and engagement. However, if you’re not experienced with social media marketing, consider speaking to a freelancer or agency about how to get the most value out of your ad spend.
Do some research to find out if there are any local influencers in your area and inquire about their fees to promote your business on their channels.
While you can expect to shell out big bucks to get the likes of Kim Kardashian to talk you up on social media, local influencers tend to be more reasonably priced and can still convince a lot of people to give you a try.
Newspapers might not get the same level of circulation as they did before online feeds became the default way to get the latest stories, but they’ve got some life in them yet.
Ad rates are usually quite affordable these days and you can often get a package deal that includes an advertorial piece, promotion on their website and even a shout-out on social media.
For some businesses, flyers are still an effective method to get the word out and billboards are still a good way to catch the attention of drivers.
While you should certainly spend time sprucing up your online shop windows (your website, Google Business Profile, Facebook…), you mustn’t overlook the tried-and-true method of driving foot traffic through your doors: your actual shop window.
Professional shop window dressers might not come cheap, but when you only need to make big adjustments a few times a year, the investment may pay off when walk-ins simply can’t resist your display. And that’s something Amazon definitely can’t do!
Loyalty programs are a great way for local stores to drum up repeat business.
While big businesses invest millions in sophisticated reward programs, a simple card that regular customers can get stamped for a free product or service on their tenth visit is all you need to keep people coming back.
Sponsoring local sports teams aligns your business with something locals tend to be very passionate about. It gets you great exposure both at games and also when fans take pics to share online.
You don’t necessarily need to push the boat out and have your logo emblazoned across players’ chests, you could start by asking for prices for an advertising board on the field.
Small teams rely on sponsorship to survive, so you wouldn’t just be investing in your store’s future, you’d also be doing a good thing for a local cause.
Put on a local event in your store. Bookstores can organize a signing from a local author, while food and drink retailers might invite customers for a tasting evening.
If putting on your own event is impractical or out of your budget, see if you can get a stand at a local festival or fair. Getting involved in popular events on the local calendar boosts awareness for your store while building stronger ties with your community at the same time.
These days, people looking for local products and services tend to pull out their phones and conduct a quick “near me” search.
In fact, “open now near me” searches skyrocketed 400% between the periods of September 2019 to August 2020 and September 2020 to August 2021.
Local SEO is arguably the best place to start for local store marketing, so let’s break down the strategy in more detail…
The first step to a solid SEO strategy is thorough keyword research.
Use tools like Semrush or Google Keyword Planner to generate ideas for phrases your audience might be searching. Pay attention to search volumes and intent so you can create content for your website that will truly solve their problems.
Next, spend some time on your Google Business Profile to make sure it’s as complete as possible.
Use every opportunity to submit details about your store, including:
Next, it’s time to work on your citations. If you want to do it the hard way, create profiles for the directories you want to submit to and save the logins in a password manager or secure spreadsheet. If you’d rather not edit each one individually every time you make a change to your opening hours, use a reliable listing management service.
Free audit: You’ve probably got at least a few directory listings for your store published already, whether you submitted them yourself or they were auto-uploaded by the platform. Get an instant picture of your current directory distribution with the free audit tool from Semrush’s Listing Management . Just type in your business name and you’ll see where your business has been correctly published, where there are errors, and opportunities for new listings.
Review generation is important for your store’s local SEO because it demonstrates prominence, which Google itself has revealed to be an important local ranking factor . Smaller stores can have their work cut out competing with large corporations for review quantity, but it’s much easier to build stronger bonds with customers when you deal with them in a more intimate setting. Place QR codes in your store that link to your Google reviews so it’s as simple as possible for them to leave you feedback.
Local content on your website can also signal to search engines that you’re worth ranking well for the keywords you’re targeting. Plus, it can attract backlinks from other local websites and relevant online publications about stores like yours.
Keeping costs low is usually the aim of the game for local store marketing, so any tools and software you use needs to be affordable with the potential to deliver top results.
Start with tools like Semrush’s Listing Management , which allows you to conduct a free audit of your listings. You can decide if you want to subscribe for the extra features later.
Set your store up with Google Analytics, another free tool that allows you to track the traffic and users coming into your website. This is important for local stores, because you want to know the demographics of the people visiting your website to help you craft better client personas and content.
Google Search Console (also free) teaches you which search queries are bringing traffic to your website, as well as alerting you to indexing issues and broken links.
Facebook Insights provides information about your followers on the social media platform to help you craft better posts and target ads more effectively.
It’s a good idea to collect emails for your customers so you can offer updates on new products, discounts and sales alerts to foster customer loyalty. Mailchimp is a good place to start if you don’t have much email marketing experience. It’s intuitive and gives you lots of helpful tips as you build out your first campaign. Plus, there’s a free option for smaller audiences.
Project management tools like Trello or Monday.com (there are free versions of both) help you structure your local store marketing tasks efficiently so you don’t fall behind. You can attach files to stay organized and assign tasks to others on your team.
There’s no need to sign up to all these tools at once. As you progress in your local store marketing journey, you’ll learn which software makes your life easier and which you could do without.
Attract more customers with listings in top local directories