As you’d expect, consumer needs change depending on the economic climate. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor, consumer prices have increased an average of 9.1 percent from June 2021 to June 2022. This increase has influenced consumer shopping habits, which can, in turn, impact your multi-location business’s bottom line.
Let’s dive into how inflation can affect multi-location businesses and discuss how your brand can adjust its localized marketing efforts to align with consumer needs during this time.
A Look Into Consumer Search Behaviors
During a time of inflation or economic turmoil, local search becomes very important. Recent data from SOCi has shown that rising gas prices have increased searches related to the category “gas and convenience,” as seen in the graph below. The most significant increase in search volume occurred from January 2022 to June 2022, when gas prices were at their highest.
Search results for “gas stations near me” or even a search as simple as “Chevron” revealed the closest locations for gas while also including the prices of a regular gallon. These search results indicate that consumers are searching for gas more frequently to see the prices ahead of time so they can make an informed decision on where to purchase.
While necessary for the gas and convenience industry, local search is just as important for other types of multi-location businesses. For instance, a consumer may search for “pizza near me.” If you’re in the restaurant industry, this search query matters because a consumer may choose your restaurant brand or a competitor based on the search results, prices, ratings, and who’s offering promotions.
Similarly, a recent report from Apptopia found that grocery store app usage was up 77 percent in May of 2022 compared to May 2021. Consumers are turning towards grocery apps and other apps to find discounts and promotions. The data covered in this section emphasizes the need for multi-location businesses to invest in local search.
Improve Local Search Efforts to Meet Consumer Expectations
Now that you understand the increased importance of local search during this time of inflation, what can your multi-location business do to level up its local search efforts?
If you haven’t already claimed and updated your local listings with accurate business information, that’s an essential first step. If you’re just starting with local listings, platforms like Google, Yelp, and Facebook are great places to begin.
Many local search platforms allow your business to post directly from the platform. Leveraging this capability can help your business highlight special promotions or deals at your local business.
For instance, if you’re offering a15 percent discount to new customers, you can share that information in a Google Post and on your local Facebook pages.
It’s also wise to showcase any layaway plans your multi-location business offers, along with user-generated content around the selling points of your products or services. The more you can highlight to consumers that your business provides the best value for their money, the more likely you’ll make a sale.
Consumers are also putting more consideration into purchasing products or services that aren’t a necessity. This is where ratings and reviews come into play. Eighty-two percent of consumers read online reviews. If a consumer compares two businesses with similar prices, one with 4.2 stars and one with 3.6 stars, what do you think they’ll choose?
When it comes to reputation management, your multi-location business should:
- Respond to as many reviews as possible, starting with the most recent negative reviews
- Include personalization in your responses
- Pay attention to how quickly you’re responding — the sooner the better!
- Have brand guidelines for local businesses to leverage when responding
For a more in-depth look at what it takes to manage your business’s online reputation in and out of economic turmoil, download SOCi’s Multi-Location Marketer’s Guide to Online Reputation Management.
Additional Localized Marketing Tactics That Can Make an Impact
While local search correlates with inflation, there are other ways your multi-location business can adjust its localized marketing efforts to stand out during this time. We’ll get into that next.
Similar to posting on local search platforms, a strong presence on local social is a must. Each local business should have local social pages. With 2.93 billion monthly users, Facebook can’t be ignored.
If time and resources allow, your multi-location business should invest in a presence on additional social channels such as Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, and TikTok.
When posting on local social media during inflation, highlight what your multi-location business is doing to combat inflation, such as offering discounts and promotions, ramping up your loyalty program, or giving back to your community during this time.It’s important to share this information with potential customers. Again, if customers know that your multi-location business is aware of inflation and making an effort to keep customers happy they’ll likely become more loyal and be repeat buyers.
During times of uncertainty, consumers will likely have more questions than usual. A chatbot solution can help your multi-location business address frequently asked questions promptly without putting extra strain on your local teams.
If you’re not already familiar with chatbots, they are a software or application used to simulate conversations with humans online. Chatbots are a helpful localized marketing tool that allows your local businesses to communicate with current and prospective customers around the clock.
Consumers crave convenience. When a potential customer has a question about your return policy, the quality of your products, or your hours of operation during holidays, they don’t want to wait for an answer. Chatbots can provide this information instantaneously while also collecting lead information that your multi-location business can pass on to sales.
We’ll keep this one short and sweet, but social listening is a great tool to leverage during times of inflation. Social listening is the continual act of analyzing conversations and trends not just around your business or brand but also around competitors and the industry in general.
Through social listening, your multi-location business can get a bird’s eye view of the conversation around inflation. What are consumers saying about your business’s prices? How does that compare to competitors and the industry as a whole? Once collected, this information can help inform future business decisions.
Keep Your Business Afloat During Inflation
While inflation impacts consumers, it also impacts businesses. Now that you understand how inflation affects multi-location brands, you can start implementing the above mentioned tactics to stand out from the competition during these uncertain times.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Darcy Bickham is a graduate from Texas A&M University and has worked in education related fields for the past four years. Over the years she has developed experience writing on a variety of topics including business, local politics, transportation, and both primary and higher education.