Retailers with e-commerce sites have been grappling for years with the phenomenon of cart abandonment - the majority of online shoppers leaving sites before completing a purchase.
Although online-only retailers are justifiably concerned about missed opportunities, those with brick-and-mortar locations should take heart. Not every cart abandoner is a missed sale; many of these people are later walking through shop doors to buy in person. Many cart-abandoners never intend to check out online in the first place.
Cart abandoners are comparison shoppers, often using the cart for research before buying in person at their local store. Local search has been on the rise in recent years to the tune of 146% year-on-year according to Google, as customers increasingly use smartphones to find physical stores nearby. And local search is big business; 76% of "near me" searches on Google result in a store visit within 24 hours.
There are many reasons for the customer journey from online research to in-person purchase. For items like clothes, musical instruments, and high-value items there is a prevalent “try before you buy” preference, where people need to see and touch the product in order to feel comfortable buying it.
For others, like hot tech gadgets and highly anticipated books, customers simply do not want to wait for the items to ship, and would rather go to the store to get them sooner. In these cases, customers who did their research on your site are likely to buy from your shop, as they now know your price for the item and that you carry it. The convenience of e-commerce still can’t beat the in-store experience.
It's not all good news, though. This means competition to win those users on the high street and drive them into store is moving to local search, and winning the battle for search ranking increasingly makes the difference between winning and losing these mobile customers. If your customer searches retailers where one can buy an item and your store location does not pop up on the map on the customer’s mobile phone, the sale will likely go to a nearby competitor.
So how do retailers improve their local search ranking and convert these savvy consumers? Winning the competition for the highest quality location data is critical.
Your store name, address, phone number, hours, products, and any other relevant information have to be up to date in your business listings, or you risk a needless loss of revenue. Search engines favour listings with more information over those with less because they are optimised to serve up all the information the customer needs to know. Simply having a listing is not enough.
The highest-ranked businesses are listed on all major online publishers, not just Google and Yell, but Facebook, Yelp, and even hyperlocal business directories.
There are two reasons to prioritise this; the first is that you want customers to find you no matter where they search. The long-tail of where people search is important. In such a competitive landscape, imagine telling your CEO that you’re not interested in converting the 2% of folks searching on a more niche search engine or directory.
The second is that consistency of online information signals to Google and other search engines that your business location is, in fact, legitimate and up-to-date. Consistency is crucial in this respect, and incorrect data anywhere can seriously impact search rank overall.
Anything you can do to make each location’s online presence robust positively impacts its search discoverability and signals legitimacy as well as a better customer experience to search engines.
Local pages for individual business locations are an increasingly important front in the contest for a share of search. Imagine searching for the nearest location of an Italian restaurant chain to check times and menu, and being taken to the corporate home page, leaving you to then navigate their site to find the specific detail you want; web pages for each location are essential for optimisation and for improved conversion.
At the dawn of e-commerce in the 90s, there was much hand-wringing about the downfall of in-person shopping. It’s ironic to see the roles reversed less than 20 years later. But just as they were then, the dire predictions may be overblown. Yes, commerce has changed. We are more mobile and informed consumers than ever before. But e-commerce and brick-and-mortar are not competitors in a zero-sum game, they’re complementary stops on the digital customer journey.
By building a robust digital presence that includes a world-class local search discoverability strategy, retailers can convert cart abandoners into in-person buyers and successfully bridge the digital and physical shopping divide