According to U.S. Census data, Americans and particularly millennials are increasingly moving to cities. More Americans are forgoing living in single-family homes with two-car garages for apartments in walkable, transit-friendly neighborhoods. This lifestyle change indicates that there is an increasing desire for mixed-use neighborhoods with a multitude of retail, dining, and entertainment options in walking distance. Brands have an opportunity to capture their share of resulting foot traffic, but only if they take steps to make themselves visible at the local level.
The Importance of Mobile
So how will urbanites pinpoint and decide where they want to spend their dollars locally? One thing’s for certain — their mobile phones will have an impact. Google “near me” searches increased by 34 times since 2011 with more than 80 percent of this activity coming from mobile. Millennials are said to place higher importance on their mobile phones than cars, which means they are using mobile search to find a store or service and using mobile maps, transit apps, and ridesharing services (Uber, Lyft, etc.) to get there.
The Opportunity for Brands
Brands are realizing that we are in era of urban revitalization, and a store located near a major transit hub may be more valuable than one in a suburban strip mall. However, they need to make sure they are being found when consumers are searching for them. Here are a few steps to make sure your brand is findable:
- Make sure NAP (name, address, phone number, hours of operation) information is clean and accurate. According to SIM Partners CEO Jon Schepke, listing management is the required foundation for local SEO. If someone on foot calls a local business or walks to the physical location and the store is closed or relocated, that business has lost the “mobile moment” to its nearest competitor.
- Optimize Google My Business for all locations, which is the most important way to make sure a location is found in both mobile search and in Google Maps. Taking this step will be instrumental for a brand to appear to searchers who are on the go.
- Create hyper-local content for all locations. Multi-location enterprise brands that lack any connection with a community or neighborhood will lose out both in search engine optimization (SEO) and in local affinity.
If digital marketing and SEO are all about brands being found where consumers are, local marketing will only continue to grow in importance as people move to cities. A recently published Forrester Research report, “The Local Marketing Opportunity,” indicates that the time has never been better for brands to invest in local marketing, partly because advances in automation technology make it easier for businesses to scale their efforts across multiple locations. It stands to reason that the growth of major urban areas will strengthen the opportunity because of the attendant increase in foot traffic occurring in businesses located close together. The question is which brands will catch up with the mobile, urban lifestyle and which brands will be left behind.