Consumers use the Internet not only to buy products, but to research products as well. Nearly 9 out of 10 consumers use search engines to find local businesses. An astonishing 78 percent have researched a product online and then made a purchase in the store.
As consumers’ lives become busier, shoppers do not have time to go from store-to-store to compare products and make purchases. They use the Internet to research product specs, read reviews, and seek out competitive prices. In fact, 73 percent use the top three search engines—Google, Yahoo! or MSN—when shopping for products. Even beyond that, consumers are using the Internet to look for products close to home. Research is showing that more than 70 percent of consumers want to stay within a 20-minute drive of their homes to do their shopping.
The lessons to learn here are two-fold:
- Retailer websites should contain the information consumers seek.
- Consumers need to be able to find these websites easily.
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Retailers can use several strategies to ensure consumers find their businesses and the information they need online:
- Local Search Engines - The major search engines—Google, Yahoo! and MSN—all have local business centers where you can upload product descriptions, categories, pictures of your store, and your operating hours. The information provided in the local search engines will appear in the maps area in an organic search result.
- Directories - Internet Yellow Pages (IYP) is a valuable search tool from a trusted source for local businesses. Other directories with increasing popularity for local search include CitySearch, Local.com and MerchantCircle.
- Ratings and Reviews - Many consumers look to product reviews in choosing which product best fits their needs. Allowing ratings and reviews on your site gives consumers valuable product knowledge outside of the specifications you provide. It also keeps consumers on your website by showing them that if one product doesn’t fit their needs, another one of your products might be better. Retailers should add their store information to ratings and review sites, such as Yelp. This allows consumers to find your business and interact with others about your products.
- Keywords - Keyword-rich content on your site should be focused around your core key products. Using geo-targeted keywords within the copy space allows your business to appear in local searches for your products.
- Link Building - Build in-bound links to your site from other local websites to help promote your website.
- Coupons - Coupons work online as well as they do offline. Coupons can be used on your site or on your local search engine listing.
- Video - Videos can help promote your product better than a text explanation. Consumers can see the actual size of the product and see it in use. Videos can also be distributed to popular websites such as YouTube and Facebook for more exposure.
- Paid Search - Geo-targeted paid search ads can complement your organic search results on a search results page. Paid search can promote a particular item or have a call to action to visit your store. Also, paid search now allows video and product images—providing more information about your product to the consumer.