Mobile technology is often described as an enemy of in-store retailers by putting competitors at consumers' fingertips. Savvy retailers, however, can fight back by providing relevant, local information to drive consumers to their store locations. The fact that consumers often turn to their phones for more information suggests there are plenty of opportunities for retailers to improve the in-store shopping experience. Two out of three shoppers who tried to find information within a store said they didn't find what they needed, and 43 percent of shoppers left frustrated, according to a survey of 6,000 smartphone users between the ages of 18 and 54 conducted by Google, Ipsos Media CT, and Sterling Brands.
And 71 percent of the respondents who use smartphones for online research indicated their device has become more important to their in-store experience than speaking with a salesperson.
In addition, consumers are more likely to visit stores if they have access to the following information: price of item at a nearby store (according to 75 percent of respondents); knowing that an item is in stock (74 percent); and location of closest store with the in-stock items (66 percent).
Google, Facebook and other companies are betting on location data as a way to draw shoppers to local businesses. Earlier this month, Facebook unveiled local awareness ads, giving marketers the ability to target users who are within a certain radius of the business' address and have enabled location services on their phone. Facebook also added a new call to action, "Get Directions," to the ad format. Google continues to invest in its search products and lets local business listings appear in Google Maps, Google+, and within Google web results.
But to stay in front of consumers, companies with physical locations must manage a growing number of local pages and product listings, notes Robert Blatt, chairman and CEO of MomentFeed, a location-based marketing platform.
"One of the biggest misconceptions that retailers have is how to get their listings on top of a search result," Blatt says. "Local SEO used to be about static data and just making sure the information on your website was accurate. Now it's about maintaining your presence across an entire ecosystem of networks and sites."
Companies like The Home Depot, 7-Eleven, and JCPenney tapped MomentFeed to help them manage their various local pages as well as segment and personalize local ads. Other companies like Yext and Localeze also help companies update their location-related information across multiple websites, making location data a highly competitive space.
The bottom line is mobile technology has reshaped the shopping journey and retailers can stay ahead of the competition by leveraging location data, inventory information and other data, but whether they do so manually or with a platform remains the challenge.