SOCi Study Examines Why Brands Struggle with Localized Marketing

Brands understand the benefits of localized marketing. After all, it seems pretty obvious that communicating with consumers at a localized level is more engaging than generic brand-level marketing. But brands, it seems, continue to find it much easier to scale up than to scale down.

A new Forrester study commissioned by SOCi (a localized marketing SaaS platform) surveyed 154 marketing leaders at U.S. multi-location brands to find out how they rated the value of localized marketing and whether they were actually doing it. The surveyed companies were in the retail, entertainment, hospitality, and restaurant industries.

Of course, as the report’s executive summary notes, COVID-19 has raised the stakes on localized marketing. This is true in particular for the surveyed categories. “Companies adept at delivering fast and ongoing communication about operations specific to each of their locations are better positioned to flex in today’s shifting landscape,” the report says.

Brands Continue to Struggle with Local

The report’s findings make it clear that marketers see the value in localized marketing but struggle to execute. Even after all these years of being told that everything is local. Localized marketing is one area that advantages independent local businesses. It’s relatively simple for a business with one or two locations to be authentic and community-based. It is more difficult with 10 locations. It is a monumental challenge when a brand has hundreds or thousands of locations.

“Companies that excel at localized marketing are developing better customer relationships at the local level and helping to shape the national brand, which is critical to brand trust, and internal efficiencies. However, 77% of marketers are still struggling,” SOCi CMO Monica Ho told Localogy Insider. “But with a solution that can manage all localized marketing activities across locations, it can be simpler and more effective. Seven out of 10 marketers using a centralized solution are seeing positive results, improved customer experience, and are able to make more data-informed decisions.”

Of course, it’s not surprising the report reaches the conclusion that brands should use centralized platforms to manage localized marketing efforts. But it also seems obvious to us that brands are better off using software designed specifically to manage the complexity of localized marketing. The alternatives aren’t great. One would be to make a huge investment in building an internal platform, a strategy with more failures than successes. Or continue with ineffective, ad hoc in house efforts.

Bottom Line: This Stuff is Hard

Here are a few of the report’s more notable findings.

  • Among the marketers surveyed, 77% find it difficult to execute a localized marketing strategy across all of their locations.
  • Brands articulate several benefits from localized marketing. These include greater brand alignment (38%), increased foot traffic (34%), improved marketing efficiencies at the local level (34%), and better brand trust on a local level (34%).
  • Multi-location brands have not figured out how to organize themselves to do localized marketing. Only 40% have defined localized responsibilities for local and national teams. This is despite 75% believing doing so would improve results.
  • Only 45% of those surveyed coordinate marketing efforts between corporate marketing teams and local franchise owners.
  • Improving localized marketing in the coming year is given about the same priority as national — 61% for local vs. 62% for national.

So why is this so hard? The responding marketers cited a number of factors holding them back from doing localized marketing better. The plurality response (36%) blames resources. “Corporate marketing lacks the resources to effectively and efficiently manage all sites, posts, and reviews across all locations.”

Another notable response (31%) reflected ingrained habits. “Our digital marketing strategy has historically had a national rather than a local focus.”

Visit SOCi to download the full report.

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