2012 Holiday Local Marketing Guide

It is time to get serious about the holidays, because as of today, merchants only have a month to prepare for the busiest shopping day of the season - Black Friday.

While most merchants are putting the finishing touches on their 2012 holiday marketing plans, there is one strategy in particular that shouldn't be overlooked, which is location-based marketing. This marketing strategy has become of utmost importance due to the growing use of mobile - especially among shoppers who use these devices to locate nearby stores.

In fact, a new report from online advertising network Chitika reveals that a quarter of Google searches are local, and 16.37 percent of those local searches come from a mobile device. This means that more and more consumers are using their devices as a tool for discovering nearby services and businesses, and this number will most likely increase during the busiest shopping season of the year.

In order to take advantage of the mobile mania, merchants should use location-based marketing tactics to help bring in more traffic at their brick-and-mortar locations. To do this, merchants must first claim their venue on some of the Web's most popular listing websites, such as Foursquare and Yelp. (Check out Website Magazine's "Get Listed - Merchant Marketing for 2012" for a full list of discovery websites.)

Not only will listing a business on these sites provide retailers with more visibility on the World Wide Web, but many of these sites also offer tools that can help merchants connect with their customers, as well as can be leveraged to implement location-based marketing campaigns. So once your site is listed, check out the tips below for bringing in more local traffic to your stores:

Launch Local Advertisements

Since many consumers discover nearby locations through search, it is a no-brainer that merchants should spend time and money on increasing their local visibility within the search engines. While the best way to do this is by making sure your business is listed on popular discovery platforms like Google Places, merchants can obtain additional local visibility by starting an advertising campaign with Google AdWords Express. This service helps small businesses get discovered by customers who are looking for specific local services both on the Web and on their mobile phones. To run an advertisement, merchants simply need to set their budget and provide the business information that they want their customers to see. Then, the ad is displayed either above or below relevant search results, and the merchant's business is also marked with a blue pin on Google Maps so that consumers can easily identify its location. Additionally, it is important to note that with Google AdWords Express, merchants only pay when someone actually clicks their ad.

Run Foursquare Specials

Merchants must provide consumers with incentives for shopping at their business on busy shopping days like Black Friday. Luckily, Foursquare makes it easy for merchants to do just that. In fact, once a venue on Foursquare is claimed, merchants have the ability to run free promotions, including discount specials, freebie giveaways and loyalty rewards. For example, last year, Sports Authority offered $25 cash cards for customers that checked-in with Foursquare and spent $100 or more. That being said, merchants can also consider using a flash special in their Black Friday Foursquare promotions. This is because a flash special enables merchants to set a number of specials that can be unlocked per day. Similar to a door buster sale, merchants can use the flash special to reward a specific number of customers on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Target Local Fans

Merchants can captivate the attention of their local fans by launching promotions and advertisements on Facebook during the holiday season. In fact, a recent Marin Software study revealed that launching a Facebook advertisement campaign during the holidays can provide merchants with a high return on investment (ROI). This is because many consumers search the popular social network during their hunt for deals around Thanksgiving time. Merchants can take advantage of this by using Facebook's targeting features to narrow in on a local audience when creating a social holiday ad campaign. However, that is just one way that merchants can leverage the world's most popular social network to target a local audience. Aside from running display ads, merchants can also run daily deals through Facebook Offers, which allows merchants to create a promotion or deal and send it directly to their fans' newsfeeds. These deals can also include barcodes, which makes it easy for customers to redeem at in-store checkouts.

Get Help with Yelp

More than 78 million people visited Yelp in Q2 2012 to make purchasing decisions, which makes this a very valuable platform for local businesses. Not only should a merchant make sure their business is listed on Yelp, but they should also use the platform's tools to connect with their customers. One way that merchants can do this is with Yelp Deals, which, similarly to Facebook Offers, allows merchants to offer discounts to their customers. The deals are displayed on the merchant's business page, and customers can purchase the voucher directly on Yelp. It is important to note that although there are no upfront costs with these deals, Yelp retains 30 percent of the price for each deal sold. That being said, these deals can be a good way to bring in more local traffic during the holiday season. However, merchants can also target local customers by launching an advertisement campaign on Yelp. Ads can be set up to be placed on Yelp's search result pages or on related businesses' pages. For instance, the search ads are displayed above Yelp's natural search results to users who are searching for businesses in a specific area, while the related business ads take direct aim at the advertiser's competitors. This is because these ads are placed on the business pages of the advertiser's biggest competition, which can lure the traffic out of a competitor's door and directly into your store.

Seek Professional Assistance

Although merchants can implement all of the aforementioned local marketing techniques by themselves, they can also seek out the services of a professional platform, such as Geotoko or Silverpop's PlacePunch. These platforms not only help merchants launch location-based marketing campaigns, but also provide analytics for monitoring the campaigns. For example, Geotoko helps merchants build and launch location-based promotions on Foursquare, Facebook and Twitter, as well as provides real-time analytics and insights that can be leveraged for optimizing strategies. Conversely, PlacePunch helps merchants launch local offers and contests as well as loyalty programs, which allow customers to earn rewards through frequent check-ins.