Local Online Marketing: Be Relevant. Go Local.


Introduction: Location, Location, Location

Like radio, air travel and television before it, the Internet seems to make the world a smaller place, one where borders no longer exist and geography becomes irrelevant. After all, if you can truly reach the entire world with your news article, blog or ad—and distribute it in seconds — what difference does location make?

A lot, as it turns out, especially in the world of marketing. The global nature of the Internet doesn't erase the need for swimsuits in Orlando or snowsuits in Minneapolis. Retailers still need to let buyers know where their closest stores are. And a hardware store in Topeka still wants to be paid in dollars, not yen or rubles. In fact, even if you have no storefront you'd better make sure you comply with the regulations of all 50 states.

Yes, location still matters. If you “know where,” you can:

  • Analyze your Web traffic
  • Localize your marketing
  • Be more relevant
  • Increase conversions
  • Enhance your customer experience and elevate your brand

This white paper will examine trends in local retail online marketing, the benefits of localization, some tried and true techniques using IP geo-targeting and the growing importance of localized display advertising. Or, when you add it all up, how to become more relevant and lift sales.

Trends in Local Online Marketing

Like Internet traffic in general, local traffic is global and comes from every region of the world.

Table: Internet Users Worldwide

China accounts for nearly a quarter of all global traffic, as much as the U.S., India, Japan and Brazil combined. Your own Web analytics may already show such globalization. Internet Retailer reports that global visitors spent $11 billion on U.S. websites in 2011. Consider also: 50% of local searches are conducted without a specific business in mind. Retailers who capitalize on these trends will position themselves for growth. The key is not only reaching international audiences, but speaking to them as if they'd come from just around the corner.

The following infographic further shows the growth and diversity of localized Web efforts.

Infographic: Local Search

One key take-away: Roughly 60% of searchers find local results more relevant and trustworthy. Plus as you can see, local searching is growing across numerous devices and media.

Benefits of Localization

In the parlance of marketing, to localize is simply a way to target audiences. Localization, or geo-targeting, builds on what you know about your visitor's physical location. In a sense, it bridges the physical distance between your website and their homes (or offices, for all those quietly shopping in their cubicles).

It also personalizes the relationship while keeping it anonymous. If visitors feel special, they're more likely to click through and become conversions. From dating to weight loss and surveys, people respond when they think you know them. JiWire*, which offers a location-based mobile media channel, reports that 8 out of 10 people respond more positively to ads with local relevance.

Two Neustar customer examples clearly bear this out. An international airline boosted ticket sales over 200% with localized messages, offers and pricing. Another customer lifted leads from its online forms nearly 40% to accelerate software sales.

Something worth remembering: 90% of all purchases are made within 50 miles of where people live or work (The Kelsey Group). And according to TMP/ComScore, 61% of local searches lead to purchases. Marketing strategist Steven Cook, a member of the CMO Advisory Council, says this: “During my 25-plus years as a global brand marketer at P&G, Coca-Cola and as Samsung's CMO N.A., I've witnessed marketing, advertising and consumer engagement approaches transform from „push' to „pull,' especially in the past few years with rapidly changing digital tools and consumer empowerment. During the pre-digital years, I saw it all — local printed directories, ZIP code and segmented direct mail, billboards — any means possible to reach an exact demographic and target audience. The common thread within those offline strategies was location.

Your Website: Where Local Comes to Life

Visitors to your website arrive from many paths. Among them: display advertising, paid search, social media and daily deals. Since we don't have face-to-face contact on the Web, data is crucial—the more granular, the better. As a marketer, you're able to mine a wealth of data when consumers land on your site and you know their location. IP geo-location technologies are especially useful in providing and analyzing data such as the following:

Geographic Data:

  • Continent and country
  • Region, state and city
  • Designated Market Area (DMA) and Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA)
  • Area code and postal code
  • Time zone and latitude/longitude

Technographic data

  • Connection speed and type
  • Carrier/Internet service provider
  • Top level domain and second level domain

Contextual data

  • Organization
  • Industry

All of this information can help you localize website content. For starters, you can feature geospecific offers using perhaps a printable coupon. Even more simply, you can make sure your pages populate with the right language and currency, plus use the proper formats for dates, addresses and phone numbers—all essential if you're marketing on a global scale. You can also use graphics that make sense to buyers in targeted areas. Want to lure them into your stores? You can automatically provide the closest locations, without your visitors having to input their addresses.

How to Localize

Special Offers
Check out the Special Offers page on Skype.com*. Note the differences between the American and Swedish versions—we're talking more than a couple of umlauts. The offers are not only different; they're expressed differently, one emphasizing actual prices, the other savings percentages.

Local Search Example: Skype

Relevant Products
Perhaps you sell lawn furniture. Normally your window of opportunity is during spring and early summer. Once these warmer seasons are over, your campaign has little effect. Who needs patio furniture during a snowstorm? However, with geo-targeting you can market your outdoor furniture to people in warm-weather states and indoor furniture, if you carry it, to folks in colder climes.

Language and Currency
Let's consider another example, yoox.com* as seen in USA and Italy.

Local Search Example: Yoox
Local Search Example: Yoox

Again, the differences are dramatic—different languages, visuals and copy. Yet both pages are on the same domain and root directory of yoox.com. If you have multiple websites targeting various countries, you can simply redirect visitors to the appropriate site when they click on a link or type an address into a browser. Or when a foreign visitor arrives at your site, you can inform him or her of the appropriate nationalized site.

It's a good idea to test general approaches, along with specific web page elements. Think through what will work better: showing your traffic from Spain pages in either Spanish or in English? Will you quote euros or dollars? You can't always assume.

Visuals too are ripe for testing. See how Marriott.com* looks in France as compared to Japan.

Local Search Example: Yoox

As you can see, the colors, images and designs differ a great deal. Would pages for Arkansas versus New Jersey be equally disparate? Yes, conceivably.

With geo-targeting, your site can also promote your bricks-and-mortar locations. By targeting consumers near your stores, you can sync online promotions to offline activities, matching them with local inventory and generating impulse shopping. You can even adjust your message according to the proximity of your competitors.

Some studies estimate that 30% of all website visitors leave within seconds. Why? Simple: they can't find what they came for. As Google puts it, “A high bounce rate generally indicates that site entrance pages aren't relevant to your visitors' needs.” By instantly displaying the most relevant content to every visitor every time, you can significantly decrease bounces and engage visitors longer.

Display Advertising
Like websites, banner ads become more relevant when localized. Using display to create awareness and generate leads, you can lift response and conversions throughout your marketing funnel. No wonder that in a 2011 survey, Bizo reported that display advertising was the top priority (65%), followed by mobile (60%) and search engine optimization (56%).

As reported by Business Insider, display is already the second largest category of digital marketing, accounting for 30% of ad dollars versus 45% for search marketing. In all likelihood, your organization has a substantial search program. Display could easily offer untapped potential. It also nicely complements search, which is further down the funnel and attracts buyers who have already shown intent. With its powerful lead-gen capabilities, display enhances awareness and even drives search. During display campaigns, people often search for what they see in banners.

How powerful are search + display? The numbers tell the story:

Increase traffic and engagement—According to Yahoo and ComScore, search + display increase average number of page views by 68%. Boost in-store visits—The same research shows that in-store visits increase as much as 43%. Ignite paid search campaigns—After seeing a display ad, consumers are 136% more likely to search for your brand and 140% more likely to click on an organic link. Grow offline conversions—Dunnhumby and Google report that one major consumer products company saw a 52% lift in offline sales following a display campaign.

When it comes to localizing display ads, it's good to know you have options. You can target display not only by country, state or city, but also by device type (Mac or PC, iPhone or Android), connection type (cable or DSL) and browser type (Internet Explorer or Firefox), all of which lets you factor in technological capabilities. Moreover, within a local area you can target by domain: home, work, government, university and more, even drilling down to organization name and industry. With these types of contextual data, “local” goes beyond geography into other affiliations.

Maybe college students are a key audience for your business. Students of many universities are intensely loyal. Knowing this, you might localize your next credit offer.

If you're an apparel merchant, you could likewise zero in.

The same holds true for industries you target. Whether you're trying to reach construction contractors, policemen and firemen, doctors or auto shop owners, location-based data helps you hit the mark. Minimizing ad waste, it's an intelligent way to lift conversions.


The local Web is growing and shows no signs of slowing down. Local searches continue to surge across different media and devices, with consumers finding localized messages more relevant and trustworthy. By knowing “where,” marketers can engage more relevantly and increase conversions. Localization is a proven way to personalize your marketing, with references to local attractions, events, weather and more.

Your website and display advertising both benefit from going local. Websites can tailor products, special offers and pricing to locality, along with language, currency and site creative. Localized display ads can help increase traffic and engagement, in-store visits and offline conversions while aiding your paid search efforts. You can target locally not just with geographic data, but also by knowing the user's device, Internet connection and browser. It's also possible to target people at home, work, school or at government agencies. In total, local online marketing offers a growing number of ways to be more relevant and engaging.

Your challenge, should you accept: promote your business with local relevancy … and get ready to reap the rewards.

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