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Consider this scenario. You’re a global brand with 2 or 3 niche product offerings. You had fantastic success in your existing markets and that’s encouraged you to expand into new, emerging markets. Your marketing team has carefully researched and picked a few ripe markets in other countries for you to pick. You pump in a few million dollars into media spend and launch a global campaign in the new markets. A few months go by, then a year and you find your products having fewer and fewer takers. Your sales numbers are dropping, your revenues are plunging and none of your expensive media intense campaigns are pulling at the heartstrings of your customer. You wonder what’s going on and where it all went wrong.
This isn’t a fictional marketing horror story. It’s a reality that many global brands like yours are facing today. The reason? The assumption that what’s good for one is good for all. The failure to acknowledge the fact that ‘being different’ is the new ‘being in with it’. This doesn’t mean that your customer doesn’t want to buy your product simply because his neighbour owns it. It means he wants to buy your product for an entirely different reason, to satisfy an entirely different emotion. And, it doesn’t stop there. He wants you to tell him how you can satisfy this different need of his in the few seconds during his search and shop ritual on his smartphone screen.
In an extremely competitive omnichannel market, with multiple personal touchpoints, it’s becoming difficult to depend on advertising strategies that were based on brand loyalty. Today, if you are not ‘where I am’ and not ‘telling me what I want to know quickly’, and ‘giving it to me immediately’, I have no interest in you. This is not an isolated incident. It’s how rapidly emerging technologies, the internet and smartphones have influenced the evolution of consumer behaviour. And, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, consumers are isolated from social influences and spending more time with their noses in their smartphones. A blanket marketing strategy and universal communication will not work in this scenario. You need to make your strategy and communication highly customised, highly targeted and highly local in sentiments. You need to go Hyperlocal.
Hyperlocal marketing is an emerging strategy for targeting customers in a highly specific, area, sometimes as narrow as a specific street, often catching the customer while he is conducting a search on his or her smartphone. An example would be, a tourist in a new city searching for the nearest coffee shop in a street he’s not familiar with, this is called a hyperlocal search. When the customer does this search on his google maps using the ‘near me’ function, your coffee shop which is 2 shops after the nearest coffee shop pops up. But how did your coffee shop’s ad pop up though it isn’t the nearest? Keep reading. This, in essence, is hyperlocal marketing in a nutshell.
Sounds simple? In actuality, it’s not that simple. It’s a lot of technologies, millions of megabytes worth of localised data and highly optimised SEO and a lot more doing magic behind the scenes. Here are some of the things your Global brand can do to set up an effective Hyperlocal Marketing Plan.
Google search is the most popular discovery tool for the smartphone generation. The fact that it’s integrated into key Google offerings and also being integrated by 3rd party sites and apps, getting your business listed with Google is not an option but a norm if you are looking at going hyperlocal with your marketing strategy. Google My Business is a free business listing tool offered by the search engine giant that’s easy-to-use for businesses looking to manage their online presence and appearance on Google Search and Google Maps. What’s best about Google My Business is that each business can have its own individual Google My Business page. Once set up, you need to ensure that your Google My Business page is updated on priority and make sure your Facebook page is up to date and accurate. There’s a lot more localisation you can do with Google My Business too. For instance, if your business has multiple offices in multiple locations, you can create specific landing pages for each location for the best hyperlocal results. It’s very important to enter as much business information as you can like address, contact numbers, website, and even business hours.
If you want to take hyperlocal targeting one step further, you can include location-based advertising and proximity targeting to serve ads to your customer based on where they are, where they’ve been, or even where they’re going. All this is possible due to that little consent that each app you install on your smartphone asks you for – ‘Allow Facebook to access your contacts’ or ‘allow Instagram to access your camera folders’. When you give these permissions, you are giving apps access to learn about you, your behaviour and your lifestyle and then passing on that information to marketing agencies that then serve more targeted ads.
Creating localised content for a local brand would be no challenge, but for a regional brand breaking into a local market it would be a huge challenge to fit in. Sort of like how one feels when moving into a new city to live in or fitting into a new job. In both cases, you would befriend someone locally to show you around and introduce you to others. Likewise, if you are a new business in an unfamiliar locality, the best way to reach out to your customers is through local talent. Hire a locally known and reputed talent to build content for your business based on the sentiments and the nuances of the locality. This would make the content sound authentic and believable for your audience. Ensure that you populate enough content on several platforms for easy discovery. Include blogs, videos, emailers, ads, and social media content all with localised flavour to increase presence and trust.
We are in an age where we may not say hi to our neighbour, but yet be connected with them on Facebook, Instagram and other social media channels, and even like and comment on each other’s posts. And, when one of these neighbours starts a home-based business like baking, we’re more than enthusiastic to share and spread the word to our friends. It’s the same with businesses. Businesses can design multiple audience personas on Google, Facebook and more and sell contextual, location-based advertisements. This technique of hyperlocal targeting is called geofencing, where you fence-in specific areas where you want to serve your advertisements. When someone walks into this fenced-in area, they are served ads through push notifications, SMS, or targeted ads on social media pages.
The additional benefit or getting something more than you bargained for has always been a strong driver for sales. And, in a digital world, it's only becoming more of a deal-sealer as the digital platform has levelled the playing ground for all. It’s almost like brands are bidding in an auction for a customer, only the bids are deals one upon the other. Loyalty points are another big pull. Having exchangeable points distributed to customers on every sale ensures they return to your business at some point or the other to exchange these accumulated points for attractive discounts on future purchases or other wares. Loyalty points work best for businesses that deal in products or services that are repeatedly purchased. For instance groceries.
Today, almost no one ever walks into a store or buys a product without checking its reviews and ratings. And the fact that these ratings and reviews are from random people only makes them more authentic. For instance, when you search for a Starbuck in your locality and are shown 3 in your vicinity, you tend to visit the one with the highest ratings and reviews. In times when your reputation, your quality of service, your perception is visible to all, you must get your ratings and reviews online managed and in check to stay on top of the customers' consideration set. Even how well you responded to a bad review and how you compensated for it emotionally plays a big role in building your ratings online.
Communities are the future of building customer bases. Communities are groups that start small and grow exponentially over time. From a Hyperlocal point of view, a business depends on these communities to participate, partake, engage, co-create, influence and bring in others into the fold. It starts with nurturing the relationship that the brand has with a prosumer who is an early adaptor in a community. If the brand can nurture a strong bond with this prosumer by listening to him or her, acting on his opinions, engaging with him or her regularly and including him in seemingly key business decisions, the brand would be able to create a Key Opinion Customer who then goes on to become an influencer for the brand. Nurturing these Key Opinion customers solves a brand requirement for creating UGC, reviews, vernacular content, videos and more.
Ok, so now your business has established itself in the Hyperlocal space and built some valuable connections. How do you use this connection to build sustainable value both for your business and your loyal customers? That’s when last-mile digital integration steps in to close the gaps with the use of AI chatbots, WhatsApp, Telegram, Facebook Messenger, etc. JioMart WhatsApp grocery delivery is a great example of last-mile integration, but for a hyperlocal business, it has to be a lot more personalised and customised based customers. For a hyperlocal business, this last mile integration will help it get into Facebook Messenger conversations, WhatsApp conversation, etc. as feedback, suggestions and more.
While all of the above practices, methods and techniques are basics for setting up a Hyperlocal Marketing strategy and plan for your business, it’s not the end. Hyperlocal Marketing is still in its infancy but is growing rapidly day by day to include newer and more personal channels of reaching out to your customers. In this age, the ‘time poor’ customer is not willing to wait long periods for your business to follow up a successful interaction with another. Customer engagement has to be constant and instantaneous. While Chatbots can do this to an extent, they need AI to learn from past experiences and respond with adequately convincing and personal conversations. Think of it as going on a blind date. Based on the conversation exchange it could be a one-off date or the beginning of a beautiful long term relationship. Hence you must pick the right service to set up your blind date. To match you to the right person based on similarities and common likes. Likewise, businesses must seek out and partner with Digital Marketing Agencies who truly understand the significance of one-on-one conversations with consumers in the digital space.