Does your business have one or more physical locations that depend on people being able to find you both online and offline? Perhaps you are a hotel, or a bank with many branches, or even a retailer with only two locations. Regardless of size, all businesses that depend on foot traffic to complete a transaction need to enable customers to make the leap from the digital space to the real world. So how do you ensure your business can be found in all the right places by search engines and people?
To do business these days, customers need to find you online first, and then they need to find your physical location. To ensure the customer experience is pleasant, the process must be seamless for the user from end to end. There are three main challenges that can break this process and result in lost customers.
1. Customers don’t know you exist
If they don’t know about you, they can’t buy from you. Consumers often start a purchase process with an “informational search query” – a broad topic to help get an idea of what information exists to solve a need. For local business, these searches frequently involve location words combined with a general purchase category, like “nearby hotels” or “ATMs near me.” When these broad searches happen, you want your business to appear so potential customers know you exist.
Remember, if customers don’t find you directly, they will either find your competitors, or be sent to third-party aggregators (like online travel agencies for hotels, airlines, rental and cars). Thus, at best you miss a chance at revenue and still don’t build a direct customer interaction; at worst, you lose a customer to a competitor.
2. Customers are unable to engage with you
Once potential customers know you exist, they likely want to learn more before giving you their business. There are a variety of sources for information, but being present and active in the ones you can control has a big positive impact both on your presence in local search and in helping people form opinions about your business. You earn trust for your business in a variety of ways, from ensuring your public profiles have rich descriptions and photos, to interacting on social networks and responding to online reviews.
3. Customers can’t physically find you
If you make it through the first two hurdles, congratulations! Customers know who you are and feel reasonably confident that your goods or services will fill their needs. Now they need to call, drive and purchase. Having the wrong phone number, address or business hours on your website or any major directory will quickly turn the customer from ready-to-buy into frustrated-and-going-elsewhere.
Next week. Some solutions.