• Tuesday, May 28, 2024
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BusinessDay

Act digitally, think locally

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Imagine two restaurants. One has a traditional advertising campaign, while the other uses technology to find potential clients in the area and target them specifically. The former strategy may boost name recognition, but the latter is more likely to get hungry clients through the door and ordering.

Tracking mobile devices via G.P.S., Bluetooth and Wi-Fi allows digital marketing to reach people locally and tempt them with custom messages. Digital marketing on a local level often trumps national campaigns in cost-effectiveness, especially for retail businesses and restaurants.

Reaching someone at the right time can turn a walk-by into a sale, Professor Julian Villanueva of the Instituto de Estudios Superiores de la Empresa at the University of Navarra in Spain and consultants Luis Ferrandiz and Rosa Fernandez-Velilla explain in their new technical note “Geolocation and Local Digital Marketing.”

In addition to being a cost-effective way to advertise, local digital marketing can be used as a tool to respond to the growing need for local information and to build loyalty among distributors, retailers and other intermediaries that stand to benefit from a brand’s local presence. Many search engines now prioritize results located close to the device making the search. As a result, local digital-marketing campaigns also can enhance a brand’s organic presence in local search results.

Geographic information, as provided by mobile devices, is highly marketable in conjunction with data on demographics, tastes and usage. For example, with signal readers installed, the manager of a shopping mall can assess the number of customers in each area, the time each person spends in the mall and which stores people visit. That information can be used to launch campaigns and set rents.

In local digital marketing there are seven key channels.

+ LOCAL WEB SITES.

Brands with local Web sites can guide customers straight to their nearest location. Dunkin’ Donuts does that, allowing users to enter their ZIP code or use their cellphone’s G.P.S. for a more local experience.

+ LOCAL SEARCHES.

Half of mobile-phone browser searches are for local establishments, according to Google. Even national brands should make sure that their local Web sites are mobile-friendly and should  use local search-engine-optimization and sponsored-links strategies to complement their national strategies.

+ LOCAL DEALS.

From Groupon, which offers deep discounts on various products and services in a particular city or region by requiring a minimum number of people to pre-purchase the deal, to coupon aggregators such as Retail Me Not, there are many ways to promote local deals online. There is some risk, however, that such sites attract customers who will then wait for special offers before making purchases.

+ SOCIAL NETWORKS.

For added value, many big brands respond on a local level. Wal-Mart’s Facebook application, My Local Wal-Mart, keeps the focus on stores, promotions and conversations in the user’s area. Geolocation can be used both on Facebook, the social network with the highest penetration, and on Twitter.

+ LOCATION-BASED

SERVICES.

Check-in applications, such as Foursquare, encourage users to share their locations. Those applications provide companies with opportunities to offer deals, ask for opinions and make recommendations.

+ RECOMMENDATIONS.

Tripadvisor, Yelp and other recommendation aggregators are enjoying increasing popularity. Brands should manage the comments posted on those sites carefully, however, since many potential customers read them.

+ ADVERTISING AND ALERTS.

Ad networks such as iAd and Admob, enable embedded advertising in mobile applications. That type of advertising has yet to take off, due to user wariness about sharing location information. Nonetheless, applications such as Apple’s iBeacon are making headway by allowing personalized messages to be sent.

Localized campaigns are often the last item on the marketing budget. Special care should be taken to delegate them to qualified people, however. Implementing, managing and monitoring local campaigns is a complex undertaking, due to the detail and differentiation needed for each geographic location.

In the local realm, brands should have a defined strategy and a clear goal. The goal may be to increase visibility, to boost store traffic or to build customer loyalty on the ground. Choosing the right channels and applications requires well-defined objectives and dependable tracking mechanisms to measure success.

In a globalized world, thinking locally can reap real rewards.