Pandemic Effect On Local Marketing

Posted on May 27th, 2021 by True Media

To say that the last 12 to 18 months have been challenging for marketers would be the worst of understatements.  But as optimists who are energized by the ideas of what’s next, we are drawn to the silver linings of the many dark clouds that the pandemic blew our way. As ravaging as the pandemic has been, it has also highlighted many consumer shifts that are already transforming the future of marketing. With local marketing, there have been three major shifts that should be recognized and addressed.

Local Search

From 500%+ growth in “Can I Buy” local mobile searches to 3,000% growth in “Curbside Pickup” and 8,000% growth in “Who Has” or “In stock” searches over the past two years — consumers have shown that their new normal is to ascertain what business have the items they want in the digital space before venturing into a physical location. With Google now identifying almost 50% of all searches as having ‘local intent’ this equates to approximately 28 billion monthly local searches — a staggering amount of opportunities for businesses to connect with consumers.

Consumer Activity

By August of 2020 buy online pick-up in store (BOPIS) grew by 259% year over year, additionally, eight in ten consumers expected to increase their use of this service throughout 2021.  Ecommerce went through about ten years of growth in the last year, powered by immense growth in grocery sales, which now make up 12% of ecommerce sales.  This growth is unprecedented and not likely to slow down anytime soon. Google research shows 67% of consumers plan on confirming an item is in stock this holiday shopping season before visiting a store to make a purchase.  These shifts, this merging of physical and digital retail, has created a new concept: phygital retail.

Local Ranking Factors

Since the advent of local search, the most important local ranking factor has been proximity, how close a given searcher is to a given location. As revealed by the MOZ Local Search Ranking Factor report in 2021, this is no longer the case. For the first time, proximity dropped out of the top spot into third place. The top two spots are now Google My Business (GMB) signals and review signals, meaning for the first time ever the most important ranking factors are those that are most controllable by local businesses. This is one of the most significant shifts in local search and is in line with Google’s overall shift in serving as more of the consumer journey themselves, with the Google SERP serving as a “one-stop” for local searchers.

Key Takeaway

Businesses, regardless of size, need to lean into Google’s changes and take advantage of the new opportunities to influence their ranking.

  • GMB is now just table stakes to play in the local game. Claiming, verifying and optimizing business profiles is no longer an option.
  • Utilize all profile enhancements and attributes available for your business and create a regular schedule of weekly activity: posting photos, update posts, Q&As and offer posts. 
  • For retailers, Google Products (i.e. See What’s In Store) is the most powerful tool to influence your ranking in the local pack. Uploading your inventory to each GMB profile can skyrocket performance