It’s hard to believe, but there are only a few months left in 2021! With limited time left in the year, it’s past time to start thinking about 2022 planning. To stay competitive, your multi-location business must analyze this year’s marketing efforts and look at what worked well and where there’s room for improvement. Knowing which trends will be significant in 2022 is also helpful when planning your new-and-improved localized marketing strategy. Throughout this blog, we’ll take you through the top trends for 2022 and explain what your multi-location business must do to prepare.
The Consumer Journey Is No Longer Linear
When you think about the consumer journey, you probably think of three specific stages: awareness, consideration, and purchase. In the past, consumers used to enter the journey at the awareness stage when they had a need, consider all of the available options, and finally make an informed purchase. With the amount of time consumers are spending on digital on the rise, that’s no longer the case. The consumer journey has shifted and is constantly evolving.
Rather than having a defined need and researching it, consumers constantly realize a want or need and make a purchase without much thought. This updated buying process makes consumers go back and forth between ads, forums, social media sites, and other forms of content because today’s customers are never on a predetermined path. They are consistently taking in so much information that they may develop a want or need without even realizing it. Instead of the former linear path, the consumer journey has turned into more of a maze with unlimited entry and exit points.
So what does this mean for your multi-location business? Multi-location businesses must see consumers as individual people and appreciate that each buying journey will differ. By understanding this, businesses can start to make meaningful relationships and become more relevant in our digital-first world. Since consumers are taking in information everywhere and spending more time online than ever before, your multi-location business needs to optimize all of its local search and social channels to be present everywhere consumers are spending their time. Your multi-location business can also highlight products and services on both your local search and social channels so consumers know what they can get from your business without having to spend time going to your website or doing additional research.
Social is the #1 Discovery Engine
Think about it. Have you ever been scrolling through Facebook or Instagram and saw an ad or post for a product that you didn’t even know you needed? This happens more often than you may imagine. Seventy-four percent of consumers discover a new need via social media – hence why social media is now the #1 discovery engine.
Consumers are discovering new products on local social at a rapid pace. You may be surprised to find out that while Facebook is still the top platform for business discovery, local search comes in second. Google has unexpectedly grown local search into a massive social network through reviews, questions and answers, Google Posts, and photos.
“In order to compete on local social, your multi-location business must blur the lines between both local search and local social and activate similar posting strategies.”
Consider the two images below. One example is a local property page on social media, and the other is a local property page on local search – to an untrained eye, you may not even notice the difference! However, with your marketing glasses on, you’ll see many similarities between the two. Both pages include local photos, contact information, posts, a map, and a review section.
The more information a consumer can find on your business without doing additional research on owned sites, like your website, the better. Ensuring that your business locations have both their local search and local social channels optimized is essential and will help increase your online visibility. Up next, we’ll dive into another trend that covers what type of content you should be posting on both your local search and social platforms.
Localization = Personalization
Localization is another trend that we expect to stand out in 2022. For consumers, localization can personalize the experience, shifting the feeling of when they have to make a purchase from inundated to interested. For businesses, localization can help you connect personally with those most likely to love your brand.
So what exactly is localization? Localization is the process of adapting your content – messaging, images, post types, targeting, etc. – to a specific location or market. When it comes to social, content that is localized speaks more to a local target audience, ensuring your message stands out. When it comes to Google, users will also begin to see increasingly customized search results based on local query specifics and implied preferences.
In order to stand out in relevant searches and become more visible on local social, your multi-location business should ensure localization in every aspect of your marketing strategy. For instance, when it comes to social efforts, each business location should have its own social page and post content locally. Content can include, but should not be limited to posts about:
- Upcoming events
- Promotions at your local store
- Local team member highlights
- User-generated content and success stories
- Any relevant changes happening at your local store
When talking about personalizing your local search efforts, the more location-specific details you can include in your locations’ reputation management efforts, local listings, and local pages, the more visible you will be on Google. Adding in localization to all three of these components will help personalize your search efforts and increase your online visibility with your target audience. For instance, if you have information about your location, product offerings, a Q&A, and local business photos on both your local listings and local pages, consumers won’t have to dig around for more information about your business. Focusing on personalizing the consumer experience through localization is essential.
Messaging and Chatbots Enrich the Customer Experience
While your multi-location business may already be familiar with chatbots and messaging solutions, they will continue to be prevalent in 2022. As artificial intelligence continues to transform the customer experience through personalization and localization, businesses that employ a messaging feature that communicates with your leads or potential customers at any hour of the day. Consumers are now online 24/7, and the quicker they can communicate with your business and get any questions answered, the better. In short, chatbots can:
Answer consumer questions without your teams intervening.
- Enrich the customer experience through AI – machine learning and natural language – which gives bots a distinct personality.
- Increase customer interactions by providing a personalized experience.
More tactically, for multi-location businesses, chatbot and messaging solutions can help consumers book appointments, get answers to common questions, order food, buy products, and more. Chatbots make everyone’s lives easier Rather than having to spend time and effort responding to questions and requests received after business hours, the chatbot can do it for you. If your multi-location business hasn’t already implemented a messaging solution across your business locations, it’s time to reconsider. Think of all the leads and potential sales you could be missing out on.
On the other hand, if you do have a chatbot solution already in place, ensure it is being optimized to its fullest potential. For instance, you can program your chatbot to drive call-to-actions like appointment books to increase conversions and sales revenue. You can also include form fills on your chatbot solution to capture 100 percent of the leads that interact with it. If leveraged correctly, chatbots should elevate your customer care and help your business win more leads.
Verticalization is on the Rise
The trends of personalization and verticalization are closely connected. Traditional and non-traditional vertical subdivisions increasingly differentiate the search experience. There are four main verticals that Google has redefined as being the most distinct from generic local search and include:
For each of these verticals, Google has created a search interface that differs from generic local search results and the Google 3-Pack. Google Maps also includes differentiating features for each of the verticals. For instance, the Google Hotels interface is one of the most prominent differentiated examples. When searching for hotels on a desktop, users will see a “hotel-pack” that resembles the Google 3-Pack but includes special filters for room prices and callouts for unique amenities like an outdoor pool or fitness center. The pricing is also displayed and comes from the hotel itself and other online travel agencies as seen below. The search interfaces for the other three verticals include similar features and more opportunities for details about the business when compared to Google’s regular search results.
While these four verticals are the primary verticals Google has differentiated between so far; non-traditional verticals are growing faster than ever. Instead of finding more traditional verticals to create customized experiences around, Google is looking at more non-traditional groupings of businesses that share common characteristics. For instance, “Order” with Google used to be available for only the restaurant industry. It has since expanded to grocery stores and convenience stores and may also soon expand to retail stores where you can buy an item in-store and pick it up curbside. Appointment booking is another example of this trend, and applies to a wide range of businesses.
So what do all of these non-traditional vertical trends mean for your multi-location business? You should be aware of these options on your local GMB profiles and ensure you’re using them if applicable. This verticalization trend provides several opportunities for your business to optimize its local listings and stand out from the competition. This trend also invites companies to be creative about how they define themselves to meet the needs of their consumers best.
Now that you have the latest trends that will be big in 2022, it’s time to get a head start on next year’s localized marketing strategy. If you don’t already have a solution to help your business manage its local search and social efforts across all your business locations, or you’re looking to upgrade in the new year, it’s time to start looking! Finding a solution that can help you manage both your local social and local search efforts is essential. What are you waiting for? Start planning your 2022 winning localized marketing strategy today!
This article is written by Darcy Bickham and originally published here