Rent-A-Center’s store network includes more than 400 U.S. locations run by franchisees who seek to build ties with rent-to-own customers in their surrounding communities. The company recently teamed with localized marketing platform SOCi to help those business owners with software tools to engage consumers in online-to-offline efforts.
As much as pandemic lockdowns led to a surge in e-commerce, many consumers still appreciate businesses with a nearby brick-and-mortar location. More than half (61%) of multilocation marketers surveyed by SOCi at the height of the health crisis said their physical locations had a significant role in generating revenue, and 66% said they expected that to continue, underscoring the need for marketing — both analog and digital — that targets local markets.
“Those with a localized marketing strategy could keep customers informed and better adapted to the shifting landscape, in turn nurturing customer loyalty,” Monica Ho, CMO at SOCi, said in response to emailed questions. “Since the pandemic, search engines are more highly ranking attributes related to convenience and availability.”
While direct mail provides a way for local businesses to raise awareness by blanketing a ZIP code with mailers, a digital presence is essential when consumers initiate a search for a local business on the internet or social media apps, especially as younger consumers are said to use Instagram or TikTok for searches.
For a multilocation business like Rent-A-Center and its franchisees, localized marketing helps to magnify the effect of brand campaigns. SOCi’s research found that 80% of multilocation marketers agree that location information on third-party sites significantly affect their brand’s reputation.
“Increasingly, these channels are prioritizing localized results, as this is the type of content that drives the most consumer engagement and conversion-rich actions like click-to-call, directions, et cetera,” Ho said. “In addition, the localized business information displayed across these top sites has been shown to impact consumer brand perception.”
Rent-A-Center’s focus on localized marketing could also provide a competitive advantage as a significant portion of retailers neglect to have even a minimal online presence. Only 89% of retailers claim their online profiles, compared with an average of 99% of all businesses on Google, Yelp and Facebook, according to SOCi’s research.
“Consumers are more empowered than ever to find information on businesses quickly, conveniently and at any time and place,” Ho said. “Business who have a physical footprint must ensure that their information is not only kept up-to-date and accurate across all of their specific local sites but ensure that this information is easily discoverable in any channel the consumer may use.”
Review sites and social media give consumers a way to broadcast their complaints about a local business. Managers who neglect to keep an eye on these platforms are missing a chance to show their efforts to resolve these grievances and keep customers happy. SOCi’s tools give Rent-A-Center franchisees a way to optimize social media advertising and to protect their brands with review management.
As consumers seek information about nearby stores, search engine optimization (SEO) plays a key role in getting discovered. The most popular attribute for retailers is in-store shopping, ahead of the delivery and curbside pickup services that provided a lifeline to many local businesses during lockdowns, according to SOCi.
“Retailers with these services should highlight and enable them in their profiles to get prominent placement in Google results,” Ho said.
Key steps for localized marketing
In working with multilocation marketers such as Rent-A-Center’s franchisees, SOCi recommends a series of steps to improve the chances of getting discovered in local search results, including on social media. It’s free to set up a listing or profile page on Facebook, Google or Yelp.
“From here, retailers should pay attention to the growing influence local ratings and reviews have” and brand perception and search results, Ho said. “When a business has more reviews than the average business in the category, there is greater potential for it to show up in the top two positions in search results.”
Optimizing an online profile requires continual tweaks as search engines and social media companies adjust their algorithms for organic reach. Including pictures of a store also helps, as 44% of local results in Google search have a feature photo in the summary listing, according to SOCi’s research.
The importance of providing localized information to consumers — many of whom include the phrase “…near me” in their search queries — is more evident as spending on local advertising hits $167.4 billion this year, according to a revised forecast from BIA Advisory Services. Of the $79 billion predicted to be spent on local digital media, $32 billion will go to mobile advertising, the consulting firm said in an estimate that includes the effects of a slowing economy.
“Because of the pandemic, improving localized marketing is as much of a priority as national marketing efforts,” Ho said.