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The Ever-Evolving Consumer Journey: What Brands Must Do Now


Over the past few years, the consumer journey has been shifting – and the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the change even further. It’s no longer a direct path from awareness to consideration to purchase. The consumer journey is now more fluid. Customers have more ways than ever to engage with brands, and discovery can happen anywhere. So what does this mean for your multi-location business? We’ll dive deeper into the ever-evolving consumer journey and explain what your brand must do to keep up within this blog.


Make Your Brand Visible Everywhere


As mentioned previously, discovery can happen anywhere. Think about your own experiences. When you log into Instagram or Facebook, you’re not planning to purchase a product, but sometimes it happens. You get a targeted ad for a new pair of shoes or a kitchen gadget, and the next thing you know, you’ve purchased it. While search used to be the primary way consumers discovered and researched a product, it’s now happening on social media just as often. 


To evolve with the consumer journey, your business must focus on its local search and local social efforts. The lines have been blurred between search and social. Now, your business can post local content on platforms that have previously been considered search platforms while also being able to include details about your business on platforms that were strictly social in the past. Ensuring that both your local search and social platforms are updated with the most accurate business information and active with content is critical. 


As you can see, the pages below look pretty similar. They both have a spot for you to include an image of your local business, contact information, a map, and a place for consumers to leave reviews – however, one is from Facebook and one is from Google. The more information a consumer can find on your business without doing additional research on owned sites, like your website, the better.



Create Engaging Content For Consumers


Once your brand has its locations’ local search and social profiles updated, it’s time to start thinking about how you can stand out to your target audience. With so many options out there and consumers constantly being bombarded with information, how can your multi-location business differentiate itself? That’s where local and engaging content comes in. The data speaks for itself. Our Localized Social Content Guide found that content that is considered localized performs 12x better than content that isn’t localized. And it’s important to remember – posting localized content on both search and social platforms is key to maximize visibility and potential engagement with your consumers. 



Consumers are already constantly being presented with items to purchase, so your content must be different to stand out. What value is your content providing consumers? Is it informative? Will it make them laugh? Does it provide them with knowledge about your product that they may have already shown interest in? These are things to consider when creating your localized content. If it’s not adding any value to your consumers, why should they care? Or better yet, why should they engage with it? Your multi-location business should strive to find ways to add value to your consumers through engaging content. In doing so, you’ll create a loyal following who will then remember your brand when it’s time to make a purchase. 


Engage in Two Way Conversations Everywhere


As the consumer journey has become more fluid, businesses need to engage with consumers along the way. Communicating with consumers throughout the buyer’s journey will help your business stand out to consumers and drive purchases. Meaningful interactions will help your business learn about potential consumers and adjust your marketing efforts accordingly. Similarly, two-way conversations will help consumers learn more about your business’s products and offerings and differentiate them from your competitors. Consumers also notice when your company takes the time and effort to engage in meaningful conversations, and it will again help you stand out from the competition. 


So what exactly does engaging in meaningful conversations entail? There’s a lot of ways your business can connect with potential customers throughout the more convoluted consumer journey. For instance, interacting on local social media pages might seem like the most straightforward option. If someone comments on a local social post or messages your local business on Facebook, your business should respond to the message received in a timely and personalized manner. 


Chatbots are another great way to engage with consumers. Chatbots allow your multi-location business to communicate with potential customers in real-time. Through chatbots, consumers can ask questions about products or services, leave feedback about their experience, and receive answers – all within a matter of minutes. If a consumer interacts with your business’s chatbot throughout their consumer journey and gets a question answered immediately, they will feel like they can rely on your multi-location business, again helping you stand out. 


Local search provides various opportunities for your business to engage with consumers as well. For instance, while reviews are typically left by people who have already done business with your company, responding to reviews can help ensure they return for a purchase. Responding to reviews will also help build credibility among potential customers throughout the consumer journey. Consumers say they tend to read 10 reviews before deciding on a business. Of those who read reviews, 97 percent said they pay attention to business owners’ and operators’ responses. Responding to local reviews is a must. Similarly, if your business has received questions on your Google Q&A, your business must also answer these. If your company responds with helpful information to all of the questions it receives, people will start to build trust with your business, ultimately resulting in more sales.



Leverage Data and Listen to Your Consumers


With the consumer journey evolving, it’s also crucial for your multi-location business to listen to what consumers are saying. Online conversations about your business are happening all the time — but 96 percent of these are not directed at and do not mention a brand, which means that they often go unseen. If your multi-location business isn’t already leveraging social listening, it’s time to reconsider. Social listening allows your multi-location business to uncover conversations happening about or around your business. You can then analyze these conversations to optimize your localized marketing efforts and adjust anything that may not be currently working. 


Social listening also allows you to discover any potential online leads ready to make a purchase or identify if the competition is beating you out on prospects. Either way, you can use this information to better your localized marketing efforts. For example, if you find local leads through social listening, your local businesses can then engage and hopefully convert them into sales. Likewise, if you see a competitor winning your target audience over, you can rethink how you should be marketing to them and make more effort to engage at the local level. Your multi-location business will have a more holistic view of where your business stands in the industry with social listening. 


All of the tactics mentioned above will help your multi-location business reach consumers regardless of where they are in their journey. Because the consumer journey is no longer linear, your multi-location business needs to optimize all aspects of your localized marketing strategy so you can win a consumer over and convert them to a sale. With 100s or 1,000s of business locations, managing your localized marketing efforts across locations is no easy task, but SOCi is here to help. 


SOCi is the central command™ for multi-location marketers and the all-in-one platform for your localized marketing needs. While we can’t change the evolution of the consumer journey, SOCi can help ensure your multi-location business is engaging consumers wherever they are. For instance, SOCi’s Social Solution enables multi-location businesses to manage and deploy localized content at scale while maintaining brand consistency at both the enterprise and local levels. With SOCi’s Social Solution, your multi-location business can ensure it’s creating the local content consumers crave. 



Similarly, SOCi Smarbot™ and SOCi’s Review Solution can help ensure you’re engaging in meaningful conversations with consumers. For instance, with SOCi’s Review Solution, your multi-location business can view every action taken on reviews and monitor every activity on social media. Now, your local, regional, and corporate teams will always know which reviews and social engagements are addressed and which ones still require attention to ensure the prompt responses consumers expect.



For more information on the tools mentioned above and more insight into how SOCi can help you crush the competition and win more sales amid the ever-evolving consumer journey, request a demo today! 


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