Over the last decade, the marketing landscape has changed dramatically. Local periodicals are attracting fewer readers, and telephone directories are filling recycling bins. Consumers just aren’t relying on those resources as much as they used to.
So where are today’s consumers getting their information?
According to research firm BIA/Kelsey, 97 percent of consumers now use online media when researching products or services in their local area.
I wrote this thought leadership piece for a national cycling retailer magazine (Bicycle Dealer) to be useful to owners and marketing team members who are beginning to understand that Internet searches are also becoming more local.
That means your potential customers aren’t just Googling “bicycle pedals.” More and more, they’re typing in specifics like “crankbrothers egg beater pedals Des Moines.”
These tech-savvy consumers have done online research and are ready to buy. Yet bike shop owners don’t have to concede the market to online retailers. Less than six percent of all retail transactions happen online. That means 94 percent of purchases are still made the traditional way, at local shops.
The key is to be visible online, even if you don’t sell online. Your shop must appear in the top three search engine results for your top brands and products that give you the highest margins. According to Google, more than 68 percent of clicks on a search engine results page occur in these top spots.
Fighting with deep-pocketed big box stores to get that visibility means thinking smarter and more strategically. I’m here to tell you, it can be done.
Three Digital Tactics
It’s not much of a stretch to say that local bike shops with the most robust, sustained sales growth in 2013 will focus their online marketing budget on a trio of digital tactics:
Localized Search Engine Marketing (SEM)
Running ads on Google, bing and Yahoo! is still the most effective way of converting online searches with purchase intent into phone calls, clicks and foot traffic.
Co-Branded Display Advertising
This tactic most effectively boosts national brand and local store awareness on contextually relevant websites. Shops should work with a vendor who has deep experience in the cycling industry and in targeting desktop and mobile users with effective banners ads that leverage calls to action and imagery suitable to both platforms.
By 2015, more Americans will access the Web via mobile than desktop. Building a mobile-friendly site is essential for businesses to prepare for the mobile movement. Mobile Web surfers are also more inclined to take action. One in five mobile website visits lead to an immediate call to the business.
According to BIA/Kelsey, there may soon be more local Internet searches coming from mobile devices than PCs. This trend can be attributed to the rise in the total number of smartphone users, set to grow from 44 percent of U.S. subscribers (118 million in 2012) to 75 percent (225 million) by 2016.
New research from Google highlights the opportunity: Nearly 70 percent of surveyed consumers started shopping research on a smartphone, 61 percent started on a personal computer (PC), and four percent started on a tablet.
Additionally, smartphone users aren’t always using their devices independently. Fifty-seven percent of the time those surveyed said they were using a smartphone while using another device ¬– 28 percent with a PC, and 29 percent with a TV. The opportunity for bike shops is clear: We’re living in a multi-screen world. No matter which device customers reach for, online research activity across desktops and mobile devices “closes the loop” on all your marketing efforts.
A Digital Marketing Convert
Breda Nelo began racing bicycles as an amateur in 1969. Rising through the ranks, he established himself as one of the top racing cyclists to come out of Brazil. He represented his native country in the 1973 and 1975 World Championships and was later hired as a coach for the Brazilian National Cycling Federation.
Nelo eventually settled in the United States and opened Nelo’s Cycles in Austin, Texas, a shop specializing in road, triathlon, mountain bikes, bike fitting, repair services and accessories.
Always looking for ways to drive more business, this three-person shop began to explore marketing options. Nelo thinks bike shops are missing out if they’re not looking into digital marketing. “If you’re not doing anything now, there’s a big, big group of people you’re not reaching,” he said. “If you’re not advertising with somebody online, you’re treading water, essentially, when it comes to selling more products in your local market.”
Nelo claims since he started a targeted digital campaign, there’s been a big increase in people inquiring about his higher-end brands. He’s seen a considerable boost in store and website traffic, and ultimately, seen an uptick in sales.
Customers have complimented the shop for advertising on national cycling websites, not realizing those ads are geo-targeted to Web users within a certain radius of the store. That’s much more cost-effective and actionable than advertising nationally.
The Right Questions to Ask
So, are you ready to be a first mover in the Internet marketing revolution, or are you poised to be road kill on the information superhighway? Your first step in answering this question is to do a little research and plan your strategy accordingly.
Do I have a good website?
Local retailer websites have surpassed manufacturer websites as local shoppers’ number one source of information. Does your site look professional, with clear navigation, lots of product images, and a lead capture form on every page? Make sure your site also includes directions, a map, store hours and contact information.
Your site is where you’ll direct your online advertising traffic, so think of every page as a landing page. Create separate pages for each bike brand, high-margin accessory, special event, etc.
What does my site look like on a mobile phone?
If your website looks great on a PC, chances are high it will look fine on a tablet.
iPhone and Android users, however, tend to be more interested in finding and buying within hours of conducting a search for a local dealer using keywords with purchase intent. That’s because people tend to use PCs and tablets for general news and entertainment, but smartphone users are searching very specific terms because they’re ready to buy.
While local search accounts for 20 percent of queries on PCs, it’s 40 percent of all mobile queries. Talk about a sea change!
How do I make a mobile website?
While your website may be legible via a tablet, chances are it has not yet been optimized for smartphones. Consult with your website vendor to see if mobile templates are available, and at what cost.
You can quickly and easily create a free mobile site (no fee for one year) using Google’s partnership with Dudamobile at dudamobile.com.
How do I advertise to mobile customers?
If you’re advertising today with Google AdWords, chances are good that some of your ads are showing up in mobile searches. That said, you shouldn’t be running the same search and display ads, in the same way, and targeting both PCs and mobile devices inside the same campaign.
A better mobile advertising strategy is to segment your campaign to specifically target “on the go” customers who are in the market to buy from you within hours of conducting a search. This means writing and designing mobile-optimized search and display ads with clear calls to action that contain a trackable phone number.
So, are you ready to begin?
If so, consider working with a Google Premier Small Business (SMB) Partner like Netsertive to ensure that you’re deeply penetrating local markets and getting the largest share of digital voice possible. By June, these top partners will be running “enhanced campaigns” able to run your ads across all devices much more efficiently to be sure the right ad appears to the right customer at the right time in your local market.