How to Reach Hybrid Customers With Local Digital Marketing

Aaron Gilbreath | March 2, 2022

New Report Identifies Marketing Opportunities for National Brands and Their Partners

Although the pandemic has only accelerated the shift that’s driving consumers to ecommerce and digital channels, hybrid customers still want to engage with local businesses. People are sick of being stuck at home. Hybrid consumers want in-person conversations. They want to touch products and ask questions in stores. And 85% of sales in the United States still happen at physical locations. It isn’t digital all the time. Local retail salespeople and independent agents are the biggest influencers on what customers purchase once they’re in the store. To get people into stores, brands must activate the digital touchpoints in the last mile of the path to purchase.

Unfortunately, digital marketing tactics are sorely missing at the local level, which means partners are missing out on opportunities to reach hybrid customers. The CMO Council’s new report, Revenue Gain From The Local Demand Chain, shows how national marketers can bring the benefits of digital marketing to their local partner channel by addressing problem areas.

Gaps Between Marketing Tactics and Usage

The CMO Council report identifies a few large gaps between marketing tactics and usage:

  1. Social media, and mobile apps like Google, Facebook, YouTube, and WhatsApp, all direct business to local shops. But only 62% of partners actually used organic social media last year, and only 46% used paid social media.
  2. Google My Business drives higher engagement than many company websites, but only 58% of local partners have claimed their Google My Business Listing.
  3. 87% of shoppers read business reviews on Google and Facebook. But over half of local partners don’t manage their online business reviews there.

As the hybrid customer comes into focus, a well-designed local partner channel marketing program will make a big impact in the last mile of the new customer journey.

What Is the Hybrid Customer?

A hybrid customer blends online and offline buying models during the buying process. They’ll gather information online but purchase in-person. As big as digital is, customers still want to shop in-store. What has changed is the growth of digital touchpoints in the last mile of the path to purchase. Think about these hybrid models:

  1. BOPIS, meaning buy online, pickup in-store
  2. ROPO, meaning research online, purchase offline
  3. BIMBO, browse in-store on mobile, buy online
  4. BORIS, buy online, return in-store

Before the 2021 holiday shopping season, the Boston Consulting Group released a study showing that brick-and-mortar retailers could do well if they adapted to the demands of hybrid consumers. More consumers were expected to come back to stores on Black Friday after browsing online first, BCG said, with 48% saying they prefer a hybrid shopping experience.

Today’s Digital Marketing Challenges Are Opportunities

On average, 50% of funds in a national company’s channel marketing program go unused every year. That amounts to millions of dollars that never make it to the local demand chain. Both local partners and national marketers need to work together to fix problem areas.

For starters, local partners have a limited understanding of marketing, let alone digital marketing. Many also don’t know what’s available in a local partner channel marketing program or don’t think the program can help them at the local level. Marketing content is often too generic. This leads to resentment from local marketers and an unwillingness to promote and engage. But national marketers should keep in mind that local partners are small business owners. They’re being pulled in many directions, from supply chain to operations to overhead, and have little time to spare. Marketing is only a small part of what they do. It’s incumbent on national marketers to be patient educators of digital marketing.

National marketers need to provide guidance and educational content, such as suggestions for how to market during the pandemic, and even consider becoming akin to a marketing agency for local partners.

How to Empower Partners to Focus on Digital Marketing in 2022

  1. Add Search, Social, and Online ReviewsSearch optimization, social media and online reputation management are top digital marketing tactics that can produce great results for local partners. They build brand awareness in today’s hybrid customer journey.
  2. Show Partners the Value of Digital MarketingLocal partners are generally skeptical of marketing, which is why national marketers need to stand behind claims that digital marketing tactics have great value. This might mean launching proof-of-concept projects to demonstrate a revenue pipeline in a region or territory.
  3. Get Creative With IncentivesLocal partners have limited resources and are reluctant to invest in digital marketing. National marketers should build creative funding options for digital marketing tactics in their local partner channel marketing program and promote these options to local partners.
  4. Make Participation SimpleToo many local partner channel marketing programs have complex processes and policies for participation. This has led to low usage of funds and services. National marketers need to simplify processes and reduce friction.

Digital Marketing Tactics to Prioritize in 2022

If you’re concerned about keeping up brick and mortar sales, strengthen your marketing on the local customer journey. Local partners own that last mile of the journey. The CMO Council report recommends local partners be able to access, understand, and execute on digital marketing tactics offered through the local marketing program.

Digital marketing tactics include:

  • Locally relevant digital content/assets/video
  • Locally relevant digital services/education
  • Online reputation/product review management
  • Organic social media
  • Social media content/cadence/tools
  • Website/ecommerce development
  • Mobile app/QR code development
  • Display advertising
  • Fund reimbursement

Are you winning in digital touchpoints or missing ways to drive revenue?

The easiest digital marketing tactics are the most beneficial for local businesses: search optimization, social media, and online reputation management. What’s good for local businesses is good for the national brand. Some partners are trying to fill digital marketing gaps. They’re improving their online search, business listings, display advertising, maps, and social media. Are you?

Strengthen Your Digital Strategy to Drive Local Sales

Are you owning your channel? Read the full CMO Council Report. Contact BrandMuscle so we can help.

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