Customer experience today is truly an online-offline hybrid, and local CX has never been more important.
When looking for information, products and services from their favourite brands, consumers are predominantly heading online first. But despite the boom in digital commerce during the pandemic, a whopping 74% of people still prefer to have an offline, in-store experience at some point in their buying process, per Uberall research.
Indeed, ‘near me now’ mobile searches – in which consumers search for the local, neighbourhood outlets of their favourite brands or for services and products near to them – have grown 150% over two years as consumers prioritise the convenience and human experiences offered by local businesses. In addition, 96% of people research purchases online before buying in-store and Google found that 76% of people conducting a local or ‘near me’ search on a mobile device visit a physical location within 24 hours – so attracting ready-to-buy consumers and connecting with today’s online-offline ‘hybrid’ customer is a must.
This is where the ‘local customer experience (CX)’ plays a crucial role. Referring to how consumers interact with the neighbourhood outlets of big brands or multi-location businesses, both online and in store, from researching a business on their mobile phone to visiting a local branch in person, local CX is a key point in today’s hybrid customer journey.
With nearly 8 out of 10 consumers having higher expectations of local businesses – including local outlets of national chains – than e-commerce websites, and with the growing popularity of conveniences like click-and-collect, providing high-quality hybrid CX, both online and offline, is crucial for brands and businesses looking to attract today’s local, ‘phygital’ customer.
Here are three ways to implement an effective hybrid CX strategy at a local level and win more custom:
Three ways to improve hybrid CX at a local level
Ensure online business listings and profiles are accurate and up-to-date
Help customers performing those ‘near me’ searches for local stores get the right information.
A key element of optimal CX is curating an online presence customers can count on. We’ve all experienced the frustration of turning up to a shop that said it was open online, only to find that its opening hours have changed, or that the other online information like address or contact details were wrong or out-of-date. With 89% of European consumers agreeing it’s important to trust the businesses they buy from, according to Uberall research, it’s essential that brands don’t falter at the first hurdle by having basic information incorrect online.
Instead, to build and strengthen this local brand trust, for both customers searching for you online, and for customers stepping foot in-store, it’s vital that you ensure business information online is always updated. This includes everything from opening hours, contact information, service and product offerings, to address, social media handles and any Covid-19 measures that are in place. This information also has to be replicated across every online channel including: search engines, social media, business listings directories (such as Google My Business and Yelp), map services and your own website.
If customers can rely on this information, not only will they have a better experience, but their brand trust, loyalty and engagement will flourish. When VetPartners, for example, ensured that all its online information for its 500+ locations was consistent across all online platforms, it saw an increase of 60% for Google Maps impressions as well as more direction clicks (+35%), phone calls (+27%) and website conversions (+17%).
Respond to reviews
Online reviews of local businesses are highly influential to customer purchasing decisions, so are key aspects of hybrid CX.
Roughly 90% of consumers say they would read reviews before purchasing anything online or offline, and according to Trustpilot, 61% of consumers rate reviews as the top influence when it comes to making decisions about their financial services provider – so responding and managing reviews across multiple platforms is vital.
This means replying to reviews – both good and bad – across all channels, from Tripadvisor to Facebook, and connecting with consumers in real time to resolve their issues or acknowledge their positive review, in order to build trust and loyalty. Recent research, for example, found that when enterprises reply to just three in ten reviews, they see 80% higher online customer engagement and conversions, than if they responded to one in ten reviews.
Online interactions are also a great opportunity to show your brand’s personality, especially at a local level. Indeed, more than half of consumers feel emotionally connected to businesses with a local presence, so empower your local teams, not just regional or global managers, to connect with customers on this more personal, neighbourhood level. Enable them to respond to location-specific reviews, since they are best-placed to resolve any local issues, and provide them with the opportunity to share your brand’s voice in a way that connects with customers on an emotional level.
Publish locally on social media
If today’s digital-first customer can’t find you online, they won’t choose you.
It’s crucial to meet people where they are in order to get their attention and their custom. Social media has become a key channel for connecting with a wider and more diverse consumer audience, and now has a direct impact on consumer choice. A whopping 97% of Gen Z shoppers, for example, use social media as inspiration before they make any purchasing decisions. While Facebook and Instagram continue to be the leading platforms, the likes of YouTube and TikTok are also becoming important, with customers often looking on social media to gauge their authenticity as well as their engagement with their communities.
So, in addition to reviews, empower local teams to generate and share content and promote deals specific to their locale. This local content allows brands to build on more personalised relationships with customers as well as grow loyalty and trust in a brand by communicating with the local community across multiple channels. It also enables customers to become brand advocates too – and if happy customers share their stories, tagging your business in posts and sharing recommendations on social platforms, a consumer is living your brand.
Posting locally relevant social content is also a key component to helping businesses come at the top of search results – which is crucial to being found online, and subsequently winning in-store footfall. Keyword optimisation and localised content added to local social pages (as opposed to brand pages) are key to strengthening your social signals, as well as helping boost SEO health – and at no extra cost.
In today’s digital-first world, phygital customers are looking to combine the convenience of online search with the personalisation and human elements of an offline, in-person experience. They want a hybrid journey, where both the online and offline aspects are reflective of that brand. While online commerce is undeniably booming, there really is no replacement for the local, neighbourhood experience – so there’s never been a better time to prioritise getting your local hybrid CX right.
Kimia Meshkinyar is Vice President Global Product & Revenue Marketing at Uberall, provider of the hybrid customer experience platform.