Last week, I was joined by Brandify's own Dustin Hayes for a spirited discussion of the holidays and the marketing challenges that seem to confront us every year around this time: Is my holiday strategy in shape? Have I missed anything? How can I get the edge on the competition?
We offered some stats that helped set the stage, including a helpful chart from the National Retail Federation (NRF) showing that holiday sales are still on an upward climb after several straight years of growth, with sales for 2019 expected to increase about 4% over last year. The NRF also shared that a notable 79% of consumers are concerned this year that new tariffs will increase prices, so we can expect consumers to be especially price-conscious this year, and to spend additional time seeking out deals and promotions before making a purchase.
Source: U.S. Census / NRF
Dustin and I shared five tactics that marketers can use this holiday season to extend the local reach of holiday campaigns and convert more customers at the point of decision.
Tactic #1: Advertise Products Consumers Are Looking For
One of the most effective strategies for increasing your exposure in search is to expand your keyword profile, but this isn't easy to do in local, because relevance is mostly driven by relatively fixed and narrow factors like your business name and primary category. But what if you could upload your entire inventory and surface in search for every product you sell?
There are actually a few ways to do this, and it might already be happening without your knowledge. Google has been mining business websites and even reviews for search terms relevant to consumers, including products and services. But you don't have a lot of control in this case over what terms you appear for. By contrast, Local Inventory Ads -- a local extension of Google Shopping -- allow you to feed your store-level inventory into Google search and direct customers searching for popular products straight to your door.
A simpler path that achieves some of the same benefits is to use the relatively new Products tab in Google My Business to add a shortlist of your most popular products. Product lists can include photos, prices, and descriptions.
Tactic #2: Monitor Your Reviews and Questions
We wouldn't keep saying it if brands were already doing it, but too often, reviews and questions from consumers go unanswered -- a fact that is especially important during the holidays, when consumers expect timely answers and the window of opportunity for last-minute buyers is especially short.
Screenshot from Google listing for Nordstrom Fashion Island
During the webinar, we shared an example from last year's holiday season, where a customer asking about Sunday hours in December for Nordstrom was answered by a Google user who guessed the store might open at 11am. In cases like this, brands get two marks against them: one for ignoring the question in the first place, and another for letting unauthorized users supply potentially misleading information that may have prevented a sale.
Tactic #3: Create Endpoints for Appointment Booking
Here's a topic that doesn't apply to every business, though brands may be overlooking opportunities to create timely and engaging events that customers will be be eager to sign up for. Appointment booking makes more obvious sense for professional services, salons, consultations, and similar use cases, but several retail brands we work with have gained significant attention and foot traffic with in-store events that promote visits and indirectly boost sales.
Luckily, there are options for many verticals to add appointment booking on Google My Business, Yelp, and Facebook. Within Google My Business, those with qualifying primary categories can add an appointments URL that will appear to users in search; the URL can point to a third-party booking service or the brand's own website. Qualifying services can also work with third-party Reserve with Google partners to present users with an entirely Google-centric booking experience.
Schedule icons in local pack powered by Reserve with Google
Facebook and Yelp have options to configure a call-to-action (CTA) button that directs users to take the action you most want them to take, including booking an appointment. As with Google, CTA buttons can be directed to your own website or to a third-party service.
Tactic #4: Create a Google Posts Holiday Campaign
This is probably the easiest to implement of any holiday tactic in our list, assuming your brand already has sales and holiday offers to promote. All you need to launch a Google Posts campaign is a strong photo, some descriptive text, and a CTA button that leads to a landing page. Posts command a lot of real estate in Google listings and, although they resemble advertising, they are still free for businesses to create and manage.
Although Posts have not been shown to help with ranking, they do provide an additional opportunity for conversion when consumers encounter your listings in search. Of the various types of Posts available, we've found that a simple "Learn More" campaign pointing to a relevant page on your website can be an effective form of awareness marketing, but special offers like "20% Off Friday Only" are better for driving sales.
Skechers Black Friday Post campaign from 2018
Tactic #5: Dress Up Your Listings with Photos
A remarkably low percentage of businesses submit photo content to Google. We've heard directly from our partner contacts at Bing that the second-biggest search engine is also eager for businesses to send more photos. You've got photo collateral for your holiday campaigns, so why not upload it to your listings?
The fact is that photos help listings convert. We live in a visually-oriented society, and search engines are becoming increasingly visual as well. Google will now show product photos directly in the SERP for relevant searches, and the search engine reports that businesses with engaging photos receive 42% more requests for driving directions and 35% more clicks to their websites than businesses that don't have photos.
Source: Inc.com / Starbucks
Don't Forget the Fundamentals
The top five tactics are important as differentiators that will help your brand stand out from the competition, but if you've neglected any of these local search fundamentals, you'll want to take care of them right away.
Ensure name, address, phone, and website (NAPW) are accurate and up to date for all locations and listings
Check to make sure primary and secondary categories are correct; these frequently change, and many businesses do not make use of secondary categories
Ensure hours, including holiday hours, are properly configured
Populate additional content where possible including business description, open date, attributes, etc.
Enable private messaging on Google and Yelp if appropriate for your business
Add menu links to listings (or structured menu content) if appropriate for your business
And most importantly, don't forget to take a deep breath and enjoy the holiday season!
Want even more help with your holiday marketing?
If you loved this blog post, you'll love our webinar replay even more! We share more in-depth tactics and strategies to amp up your holiday marketing strategy. Watch the replay below now.