The phrase “online-to-offline”, known as “O2O” for short, refers to the practice of enticing consumers to visit physical business locations using targeted digital marketing and advertising campaigns. In the age of Amazon Prime and Instacart, the vast majority of consumers still spend a large percentage of their dollars while on location at a local business. However, prior to visiting a store or franchise location, it’s commonplace for potential customers to visit a variety of online sources for information to help them make a more informed decision about when and where to spend their money. For franchise brands and business owners, this means it’s more important than ever to harness the power of online data to understand what motivates potential customers to visit their location(s), so that they can better position themselves during those key moments of purchase intent.
Segment & Analyze Your Existing Online Traffic Data
Understanding how customers find your website or local business page online can provide you with a wealth of information to make better strategic marketing decisions aimed at sending more customers in-store. With a strong foundation of analytics tracking established on the back end of your website (we recommend Google Analytics), your business can track and measure virtually every impression, click and action users take on your site. Over time, user data is aggregated to help you identify key trends associated with how consumers find your website and the actions they take while there. For example, you can determine the online source that contributes the largest volume of visitors (i.e. Google vs. Bing) while also identifying the most popular landing pages (i.e. menus, offers, pricing guides, resource information).
You can also evaluate the paths users take while navigating your website and identify where they may have dropped off and closed their browser versus those that clicked on calls-to-action (i.e. “Get Directions” or phone calls to your business) that indicate a high probability of visiting your location. For example, let’s imagine that I own a restaurant franchise and when reviewing my analytics data, I note that a large percentage of visitors land on my site via my Facebook business page and then 60% of those people navigate to my “Happy Hour Specials” landing page. Armed with this information, I may conclude that posting regular content and information about happy hour specials on my Facebook business page can contribute to a lift in customer visits.
The beauty of digital marketing is that virtually everything can be tracked and analyzed. Harnessing that data effectively can lead to more impactful decision-making for your franchise business.
Increasing Offline Customer Visits and Sales
Most franchise businesses derive much of their revenue from customer purchases made offline. As such, it’s important think of your online presence as a vehicle to better connect potential customers with your business location, regardless of the channel. This means making what we call the online consumer “path-to-purchase” as streamlined and effective as possible. Your goal should be to reduce the number of actions a user has to take online before they visit your location. For starters, ensure your website is mobile-friendly; Google data shows users are 36% more likely to use a smartphone when looking for availability of an item in a local store now than just one year ago. When someone finds you on mobile, make sure your site features clear calls-to-action for things like directions, phone calls, reservations or appointment bookings. If a customer must click and scroll through four or five pages on your site just to make a simple phone call, you’ve probably lost a large chunk of would-be visitors. It’s also important to optimize your profiles with robust, updated business data and content on channels like Facebook Places, Yelp and Google My Business. Many customers may never reach your actual website before ultimately deciding whether to visit your business, based on the information they’ve already discovered on these high-volume channels. Virtually all channels/platforms like these also provide analytics data (and customer conversion tracking for actions like “In Store Visits”) about your business for additional insight into the behavior of your customer set. By treating your key third-party business profiles as extensions of your business, brand and website, you can also ensure proper calls-to-action are in place that contribute to those critical offline customer visits.
Connecting online consumer behavior with offline customer visits can be the difference between driving increases in store revenue and losing potential customers to your competitors. By establishing quality analytics tracking and measurement across all key digital channels, franchises can make better business decisions that are grounded in the use of accurate data sets rather than based on assumptions and purely qualitative analysis.
As Director of Marketing, Josh Allen is responsible for planning, developing and managing Location3 and LOCALACT brand strategies, with a focus on establishing new business partnerships among franchise systems and multi-location brands. He also works with Location3 client partners to establish key initiatives for increased franchise engagement and growth. He is an active member of the International Franchise Association and has previously been featured by the American Marketing Association, Franchise Update Media, MediaPost and more discussing franchise digital marketing strategy.