Any retailer’s goal is to drive a sustainable stream of shoppers to its store. After all, you won’t stand a chance of making sales if there’s nobody to sell to.
One way to do that is through local marketing. By reaching people within a certain radius of your store, you’ll raise brand awareness—so much so, ideally, that the next time they pass your store, they’re compelled to drop in (rather than drive past).
This guide explains how to drive local shoppers towards your physical location through both offline and online marketing.
What is local marketing?
Local marketing is the process of attracting local customers and driving them towards your retail store.
The goal is to drive them toward the location with the hope that they’ll come in and buy something. You might see it referred to as “neighborhood marketing” for this reason.
Local marketing strategies can be both online and offline. Either way, the goal is the same: to target customers within a specific geographic location and drive them towards your store.
The importance of local marketing
Build customer loyalty
We’ve all seen the statistics that prove retaining customers is easier and cheaper than acquiring new ones.
Since implementing customer loyalty programs, sales have gone up by 80%. Most of it comes from customers recommending or buying our products over and over again.
Local marketing pushes nearby shoppers to continue visiting your store. Convince customers to hand over their email address or follow your brand on social media while they’re in-store. You’ll have a direct line of communication to collect feedback and build loyalty.
Increase foot traffic
The more people that visit your store, the more likely you are to make a sale. That’s especially true if other areas of your store—like the layout, smell, and atmosphere—are already spot on.
Local marketing gives you the tools to raise brand awareness and drive shoppers to your brick-and-mortar store. People within close proximity will know it exists. Even if they don’t go out of their way to visit, that brand recognition could stop them from simply walking by the next time they’re in the mall.
💡 PRO TIP: Offering in-store pickup is a great way to get more online shoppers to visit your store. To get started, enable local pickup availability in Shopify admin to show online shoppers whether a product is available for pickup at one of your stores.
Connect with the local community
If the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us anything, it’s the value of community. Humans are wired to find their “tribe”—a group of people with shared interests, values, attitudes, and goals. Get involved with your tribe and capture the 52% of global shoppers who are more likely to purchase from a company with shared values.
Local marketing strategies
- Local social media groups
- Local SEO
- Local events
- Local partnerships
- Local organizations
- Signage and outdoor
- Word-of-mouth marketing and referrals
- Local media
- Direct mail
Let's take a closer look at each of these local marketing strategies.
Local social media groups
Social media has the potential to drive local consumers towards your store, especially if you’re getting involved in local groups.
Take Facebook Groups, for example. You’ll find them in almost every town or city. More than 1.8 billion people use Facebook Groups monthly—many of whom use them as a news source to stay updated on what’s going on in their local communities.
To find social media groups in your area, do a Facebook search for your town or city. Filter results by Group and join relevant groups.
Build an online presence that meets local shoppers in the search engine with local landing pages for each business location. Apply search engine optimization (SEO) to these pages and increase the odds of each page ranking for local search terms—no ad spend required.
Magnolia Bakery, for example, ranks for “bakery near Central Park” with its local landing page:
Did you know that 30% of all mobile searches are related to location? Not only that, but 28% of Google searches for something nearby result in a purchase.
Divert those searchers towards their local store with:
- A Google Business Profile listing. Include basic NAP information: your business name, address, and phone number. Claire Carlile, local search expert at BrightLocal adds: “Choose the correct categories, make sure your opening hours and your contact details are correct: have excellent photos, make sure you earn great reviews, and UTM tags to all of your website links, so you can measure the impact of local SEO on your bottom line.”
- Pay per click (PPC) advertising. Pay to appear in the first set of Google search results with PPC ads.Display positive reviews, fulfillment options, and stock availability at local stores with localized shopping ads.
- Google Maps ads. Google Maps is the most popular navigation app in the US. A small cash investment can make your local store appear when people are searching for products you offer—like Walmart when a Maps user searches for an electronics store around Cincinnati.
The global events industry is expected to be worth $1,552.9 billion by 2028. Get in on the action by finding and attending events in your local area. That could be:
- Craft fairs
- Weekend markets
- Food and drink festivals
Attending these events doesn’t have to be in the form of a full-scale pop-up shop. You could hand out flyers, display signage nearby, or sponsor the event—all of which would capitalize on foot traffic at the event without being a major time investment for your store.
Exposure to new audiences, customer loyalty, and access to shared resources—the benefits of retail partnerships are endless. Create them for your own store through:
- Co-marketing. Other small business owners in your area likely face the same problem you do: a lack of cash to plow into advertising. Lean on each other’s resources with a co-marketing campaign that drives shoppers to both stores.
- Shop-in-shops. Host a pop-in shop within another retail store (or vice versa) to capitalize on existing foot traffic.
- Bundled products. Find retailers selling complementary products in your local area and offer a product bundle partnership—like a local salon giving miniature versions of your heat protection spray with a blow-dry service. Local shoppers can try both brands at once.
Speaking of partnerships, look for organizations in your local area that exist to support retailers. They make for great networking and mentoring opportunities, with some offering educational support to help you grow your business.
- Professional associations. If you’re a retailer that sells cookware, for example, register for an American Culinary Federation membership and attend events in your city.
- Chamber of commerce. network with other small business owners through your local chamber of commerce. The largest business organization in the world, the Chamber of Commerce operates in 4,000 cities across the US.
- Business directories. Create a business listing on platforms like TripAdvisor, 6AM City and Yelp—the latter of which appears in the top five search results for 92% of Google web queries that include a city and business category.
Signage and outdoor
Research shows that retail signage—be that posters, chalkboard signs, or infographics—have a positive impact on sales. More than half of businesses said they saw a 10% increase in sales by adding or updating their signage.
Daniel Foley, SEO Specialist at UNAGI Scooters, says, “Will neighborhood eateries, cafes, and supermarkets allow you to post flyers or business cards on a community bulletin board or in the entrance?”
This works best if your two companies are complementary. If you own a graphic design or photography business, for example, a local art gallery or non-profit arts organization might be willing to let you leave marketing materials in their space. Make certain you have authorization.
Word-of-mouth marketing and referrals
Word-of-mouth marketing is big business. Customers who recommend products or services to their own network generate $6 trillion in revenue for retailers. Get in on the action by encouraging local shoppers to recommend your store.
Bear in mind that you might need to incentivize these word-of-mouth campaigns with a referral marketing strategy. Give existing shoppers a reason to push their friends and family towards your store with coupon codes to redeem on their next purchase.
Local television news is the most popular offline news source for US consumers. If you don’t have thousands to invest in producing and running TV adverts, you can capture local shoppers’ demand for news through other media outlets, including:
- Local newspapers. Connect with local journalists to tell consumers about your store. The key to success is a press release on something exciting—like an exclusive pop-up store you’re hosting in the local area.
- Blogs. Find local bloggers within close proximity to your store and invite them in to view it. Impress them with your products, and you could land coverage on their blog.
- Radio advertising. While it’s not a free local marketing tip, consider investing in radio ads to reach the 83% of US adults who listen to radio weekly. Advertising fees start at $200 per week, depending on audience size.
- Podcasts. Popular cities—especially tourist hotspots—often have podcasts that share what’s going on in the local area. Hidden History of Los Angeles, for example, is a podcast for Angelenos to discover hidden gems in the city.
Direct mail is when you create physical promotional materials—such as postcards, brochures, flyers, or letters—and mail them to potential customers in close proximity to your store.
Despite being one of the oldest marketing tactics in the book, direct mail still works. Research shows that 93% of direct mail clients reported an increase in year-over-year sales in 2020. No wonder 73% plan to increase spend on this type of local marketing campaign.
REI going local + direct mail pic.twitter.com/3IEBrJEhzm— Leo Strupczewski (@leostrupczewski) December 1, 2021
Local marketing ideas
- Collect emails at checkout
- Social media contests
- Use geotags on social media
- In-store events
Let's explore each of these ideas to see if they might be a good fit for your store.
Collect emails at checkout
Email marketing is a channel known to have a high return on investment. Research shows that retailers that send emails see a $42 return on each dollar they invest. But to take advantage of this opportunity, you need to collect customer data.
Sending digital receipts via email is a great way to organically collect customer contact information at checkout, track their purchase history, and build an email list to fuel your retention marketing. Just make sure they’ve opted in to hearing from you before sending them anything.
With Shopify POS, collecting customer contact information at checkout is simple. Once you create a customer profile, you can add contact information like their email address and phone number to send them digital receipts.
Once a profile is created, you can see the customers transaction history for online and in store purchases, as well as their lifetime spend, average order value, average items per order, and more. Use this information to personalize how you market to customers and encourage them to shop with you again.
Bird Rock Coffee Roasters, for example, sends customers a $2 coupon code to redeem on their next purchase. This small local marketing tactic encourages customers to stay local to their coffee shop and build a routine.
Social media contests
Social media is a crowded place. Stand out from the competition with a contest. Not only does the promise of free products stop the scroll, but calls to action on contest-related posts have a 3.73% higher conversion rate than traditional social media content.
To host your own contest, start by determining the prize. This could range from being as simple as a bundle of your bestselling products, to an exclusive shopping trip where the store closes for your contest VIP.
Set entry requirements (such as liking the post or sharing it with a friend), and push the contest on your social media platforms using hashtags and geotags to reach a local audience.
Use geotags on social media
Earlier, we mentioned that geotargeting helps retailers reach online shoppers in close proximity to their store. Many social media platforms, including Instagram, allow a brand to tag its location on a particular post.
SuitShop takes advantage of user-generated content by reposting photos of newlyweds who got married wearing its suits, geotagging the location of the wedding.
It’s a smart social media marketing strategy: newly-engaged couples are likely scanning the Instagram location page to see what other weddings looked like at their venue of choice. Not only is SuitShop meeting its target audience demographic, but it’s doing so at a time they’re most likely to buy its product.
What reason does a social media user have to put down their phone and make a trip to your store? According to Daniel Carter, Chief Editor at 88Vape, “Offering exclusive deals and promotions to customers is a good way to encourage them to visit your physical store.
“Those who shop inside the store receive a special offer that other customers do not, making them feel special and encouraging them to shop with you.”
Bonus tip: Use Facebook advertising to drive people towards your special event. With the offline event tracking tool, you’ll spot how much foot traffic you drive off the back of your campaigns.
Local business marketing trends
- Experiential retail
- Omnichannel experience
- Community focus
The promise of experiential retail—be that workshops, pop-up shops, or in-store virtual reality technology—is driving shoppers towards retailers.
According to a commissioned Forrester Consulting study conducted on behalf of Shopify, more than a third of consumers (35%) plan to engage with brands via experiential moments over the coming year.
Take it from Manifest and Flow. Co-owner Kate Manigold “wanted to inject more playful energy into the online shopping experience and put experiential techniques into place.” The introduction of its crystal mystery machine began.
Think about the last time you made a purchase in-store. Did you happen to stroll by and pop in? Or did you come with clear intentions to buy a product you’d seen online?
While both are possible, the latter is growing in popularity. Modern consumers want a seamless omnichannel shopping experience that allows them to switch among devices, locations, and platforms—from your ecommerce store to the physical location and back again.
Do this for your local shoppers with fulfillment options like:
Jeff Moriarty, Marketing Manager at Moriarty's Gem Art, also recommends using tools like Nearby Store Notification to “Include some sort of pop-up or message on the website whenever a visitor is in a certain radius of your brick and mortar location.
“This has increased our foot traffic quite a bit from people in our own city that didn't know we had a retail store and decided to come in after finding us online!”
The power of community is undeniable, especially if you’re using conversations happening within them to help your store evolve. Research shows that 84% of companies that improve customer experience with community programs see an increase in revenue.
But focusing on your local community doesn’t have to be a major, time-consuming event. You could support charities or non profit organizations in your local area, like Made With Local. Its CEO and founder Sheena Russell says, “Participating in community-led events, volunteering locally is not only a form of giving back, but it’s also marketing.
We strategically make it a point to engage with events where we know our target demographic is, such as marathons and outdoor events.
Russell adds that they’ll be donating more than 700 bars for National Lab Technician Recognition Day: “Many of these people have been working in COVID labs and have been absolutely run-ragged over the last two years. We also regularly donate products to our local hospitals for employee appreciation.”
Start marketing to your local customers
You chose your store’s location for a reason—likely because there’s a pool of potential customers within a stone’s throw of it. Make sure you’re capitalizing on the opportunity with your local marketing efforts.
From event sponsorships to omnichannel experiences that allow in-store shoppers to consult mobile devices mid-visit, the goal is to drive people towards your physical location. Give them an experience to remember, and you’re on the way to making the store a success.
Local Marketing FAQ
What is the meaning of local marketing?
What is local marketing examples?
- Creating an online presence for your business through social media and local search engine optimization.
- Developing relationships with local civic groups, charities, and other organizations to gain exposure in the community.
- Hosting events and promotions in the local area to draw attention to your business.
- Utilizing local print media such as newspapers and magazines to reach consumers in the area.
- Joining local business organizations to network and form partnerships with other local businesses.
- Using local influencers to spread your brand’s message to your target market.
- Building relationships with local media outlets to get press coverage for your business.
- Utilizing geo-targeting techniques to reach the right consumers in your area.
- Creating content that resonates with your target market and is tailored to your local area.
- Collaborating with other local businesses to reach a larger audience.