Digital is local: What separates top brands from the competition

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Consumers have become more sophisticated in their digital expectations from brands, with digital usage up 25% since the pandemic, according to Facebook data. The unprecedented growth of e-commerce during the same period places pressure on multi-location brands to create digital experiences that will encourage consumers to search online and complete transactions offline. Brands thus see the need to become more aggressive in their attempts to outrank the competition in key channels such as Facebook, Google, and Yelp.

SOCi has set out to benchmark what makes some brands rise above the others in terms of creating great customer experiences in digital channels. Top-performing brands earn higher traffic, greater social engagement, and stronger sales conversion potential than their peers. In this year’s edition of SOCi’s Localized Marketing Benchmark Report (LMBR), we audited approximately 300 multi-location brands with 230,000 store and office locations in the U.S. We gathered millions of local reviews, billions of engagements, and many other data points, totaling more than 100 individual metrics.

The results provide insight to help multi-location brands understand the minimum performance levels required to rise above the competition, as well as offering insight into the current standards of performance in search, social media, and reputation management across a broad range of verticals.

Local visibility determines success

The report evaluates performance across three major areas of digital marketing visibility: search, social, and reputation.

Top scorers in search appear 60x as often in Google’s 3-Pack, the coveted selection of local listings that appears on page one in search results. Those who appear in the 3-Pack earn 126% more search traffic and 93% more conversion-oriented actions – such as clicks to call, clicks for directions, and clicks to the business website – than do their lower-ranking peers.

Top visibility scorers in social realize 40x the performance of the lowest scorers, receiving nearly 70 engagements per post, compared to the average of 1.7 engagements for low social scorers. In addition to sponsoring some posts, brands earn top engagement by making use of content that appeals to core audiences, with short-form video proving especially effective.

Top scorers in reputation have 48% greater conversion potential than lower scorers, averaging 4.3 stars in local ratings and reviews compared to the lowest scoring companies at 3.5 stars. The average listing in Google’s 3-Pack has a rating of 4.1 stars.

What the top brands tell us

Top brands in search, such as Ubreakifix and McAlister’s Deli, have taken care to claim and optimize their Google, Yelp, and Facebook profiles thoroughly, and most are paying close attention to reviews and consumer engagement as well as onsite SEO.

Top brands in social, such as Bar Louie and Cinnabon, demonstrate high overall volume of social media content syndication, large social audiences, and significant success in engaging those audiences with content that converts followers and other users into loyal customers.

Top brands in reputation, such as 1-800-GOT-JUNK? and Rotor-Rooter, have great overall reputations earned through building excellent customer experiences, augmented by responding thoughtfully to their reviews across all prominent platforms.

Top brands overall, such as McAlister’s Deli and 1-800-GOT-JUNK?, exhibit marketing efforts that pay balanced attention to search marketing, reputation management, and social media engagement. Hotels and restaurants are well represented in the top brands list, as well as service-oriented businesses who have placed a heavy emphasis on localized marketing success.

What stands out in this year’s report

  • High visibility score represents tangible business outcomes.
  • Top businesses are 40% more likely to appear in Google’s 3-Pack.
  • Top businesses have 215% more reviews than the average.
  • Top businesses earn 66% more engagements (likes, comments, and shares) on Facebook.
  • Top businesses have 3X as many Facebook followers.

Multi-location brands improved visibility year over year.

In 2021, brands achieved 84% profile completeness on Google, Yelp, and Facebook; this year, that benchmark metric increased to 91%. Brands are focusing more on filling out all available profile fields with information that is useful to consumers.

Localized marketing performance varies significantly by vertical.

In 2022, the top five verticals by overall digital marketing performance were auto dealers, sit-down restaurants, entertainment, fitness, and hotels & travel.

The bottom five verticals in this year’s study were cleaning services, home builders, property management, insurance, and real estate.

Brands can use vertical metrics to better understand the level of effort required to outperform relevant competitors. For instance, although the property management vertical scored in the lower range overall, property management companies don’t compete directly with auto dealers or sit-down restaurants. Instead, they must measure performance against that of other companies in their vertical.

Key takeaways

Localized marketing requires a balance of efforts across search and social channels like Google, Yelp, and Facebook, and across topic areas including search optimization, social media marketing, and reputation management. The most successful brands are those that move beyond the table stakes of merely being present in local platforms.

  • They build engaging profiles to inform and attract consumers.
  • They pay close attention to consumer feedback in the form of questions and reviews.
  • They use their understanding of the wants and needs of their audience to create engaging, useful content that builds loyalty and wins new business.

Today’s top brands exhibit a sophisticated understanding of the need to apply marketing efforts in an omnichannel approach, rather than focusing exclusively on what might be perceived as their top-performing platforms.

A huge opportunity remains for brands to improve localized marketing performance.

Brands respond to an average of only 29.4% of their reviews across all platforms and should strive to respond to a greater proportion of the feedback they receive. Multi-location brands must strive to compete with a high standard of local engagement set by many smaller local businesses.

Google users can post questions to any Google Business Profile, but multi-location brands today are only responding on average to about 7% of the questions they receive, leaving their brand voice in the hands of other Google users who may mislead customers with erroneous feedback.

Video posts are great for building local engagement, but the average brand only adds videos to posts 10% of the time. Such metrics show the way to savvy brands who can outpace the competition fairly easily by beating these numbers.

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