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Digital Marketing for Local Businesses –Driving Footfall

Just because you don't process sales or drive lead generation through your website, doesn't mean that digital marketing is not for your business. As well as being used to drive actions online, digital channels can be used to effectively drive offline actions such as footfall or in-store sales. 

Bringing an essence of your offline experience into the online environment gives you the opportunity to reach and engage potential customers before they visit. Whether this is while they are on their mobile phone searching for nearby businesses, or browsing social networks from the comfort of their own homes.

Now, as a firm believer in using data to drive business decisions, I'd be amiss not to mention a few stats at this point.

According to Accenture, as many as 88% of consumers are researching items online then buying in-store.

What's more, even when a consumer knows of your business they will conduct further research before purchasing, with a recent study showing that 68% of consumers check out businesses on social networking sites before buying.

Compelling statistics, so lets talk about some ideas to help you take advantage of this shift in consumer behavior. I'm going to cover two key channels - search and social. 

Social Media

The primary reason many businesses use social media is for brand and community building, which has benefits in driving footfall itself. But rather than talk about community building I'm going to cover a couple of tactics with the direct goal of driving customers to your store. 

Giving a reason to visit 

Giving customers a reason to visit your store beyond to buy a product or use your service is a great way to drive footfall. In digital marketing all the hype is around content marketing - giving knowledge away for free and providing additional value to the customer. So lets translate this to the offline environment - what knowledge or experience could you give away for free to drive people to your store? 

If you have a salon you could run a free manicure class. Run an Italian restaurant, why not open the doors to the kitchen one afternoon and teach people how you make your pizzas? Coming up to Christmas and you run a gift shop - get carol singers in for an evening during late night shopping.

Now this is just great marketing, where social media comes in is as the channel you can use to broadcast the event to your target audience - whether that's your existing fans, or to a wider audience through the use of boosted posts. Using the right targeting options you could inform 15,000 Guernsey residents of your event for between £70 and £100. 

Flash offers

Flash offers and discounts are another great way to drive more people to your store. Now I'm a firm believer that people don't go on social media to be sold to. So when running flash offers you want to make them relevant to something that is happening, whether that is a change in the weather or an upcoming event. This gives you an opportunity to create a story around the offer, making it less salesly, more fun and more shareable. 

Wet dog facebook 


The search results are getting more and more complex, with the variety of results spanning from the traditional organic and paid listings to local listings and knowledge graph results.


For the purpose of driving footfall you want to focus on optimising for the local results. Below is the results page for a typical local search. The results in blue are paid adverts, yellow the standard organic listings, and red are the local results. 

Search Results 

The local results are particularly important for reaching customers when they are out and about, searching on their mobile phone. To optimise for these results you need to head over to Google My Business and follow the instructions to get your business on Google. A few key pointers to help increase your chances of a high position for relevant searches: 

  1. Make sure your listing has up-to-date contact information - address, phone number and opening hours.
  2. Maintain consistency in your name, address and phone number between Google + and everywhere else on the web. For example if you have "Channel Islands" as an address line on your website, make sure you also have it as an address line on your Google + page.
  3. Choose an accurate business category - this affects the searches your listing will appear for.
  4. Encourage customer reviews on Google + - the number and quality of reviews has a direct impact on your local ranking.
  5. Use location and service based keywords in your business description.


You'll also notice that within the paid ads in the above screen grab, none actually match the searchers intent - an opportunity for a local gift shop to take advantage of. Paid ads on Google are run through the Google AdWords platform- as a local gift shop owner you could either bid on the exact phrase "gift shops in Guernsey" or run a geo-located campaign so your ads appear to only people in Guernsey who are searching for broader terms such as "gift shops" or "christmas gifts".

Whether you choose paid advertising or to optimise for local results, having coverage in search is essential for driving custom to your stores. It represents an opportunity for you reach customers at the exact moment they are searching for a product you sell or a service you offer.

Digital bridges the gap between consumers and physical locations. Whether you run a store, hair salon or restaurant, the consumer path to purchase is becoming increasingly influenced by online channels. This is not a threat to your local store, it presents new opportunities to reach customers and drive your business forward.

Posted By Ben Inder Filed under on

About the author

Ben has a proven track record of improving the online visibility  of businesses locally and nationally.

Often found with his head buried in analytical data, Ben is a Google Adwords and Google Analytics qualified Individual.

Email [email protected] | Follow @BenInder1


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