Have Your Agency’s Clients Considered a Local Product Kiosk? Google Has.

Posted by MiriamEllis

File this under fresh ideas for stagnant clients.

It’s 10:45 at night and I’m out of:

  • Tortillas
  • Avocados
  • Salsa

Maybe I just got off of work, like millions of other non-nine-to-fivers. Maybe I was running around with my family all day and didn’t get my errands done. Maybe I was feeling too sick to appear in a public grocery store wrapped in the ratty throw from my sofa.

And now, most of the local shops are closed for the night and I’m sitting here, taco-less and sad.

But what if it didn’t have to be that way? What if I could search Google and find a kiosk just a couple of blocks away that would vend me solutions, no matter what time of night or day?

Something old is becoming new again, just like home delivery. And for your agency’s local business clients, the opportunity could become an amazing competitive advantage.

What’s up with kiosks?

Something old

The automat was invented in Germany in the late 19th century and took off in the US in the decades following, with industry leader Horn & Hardart’s last New York location only closing in 1991. These famous kiosks fed thousands of Americans on a daily basis with on-demand servings of macaroni, fish cakes, baked beans, and chicory coffee. The demise of the automat is largely blamed on the rise of the fast food industry, with Burger Kings even opening doors at former automat locations.

Something new

A couple of weeks ago, I was watching an episode of my favorite local SEO news roundup in which Ignitor Digital’s Carrie Hill mentioned a meat vending kiosk. I was immediately intrigued and wanted to know more about this. What I learned sparked my imagination on behalf of local businesses which are always benefitted by at least considering fresh ideas, even if those ideas are actually just taking a page from history and editing it a bit.

Something inspirational

What I learned from my research is that the Applestone Meat Company is distinguishing itself from the competition by offering a 24/7 butcher shop via two vending installations in the state of New York. They also have a drive-up service window from 11am–6pm, but for the countless potential customers who are at work or elsewhere during so-called “normal business hours,” the meat kiosks are ever-ready to serve.

CEO Joshua Applestone says he was inspired by the memory of Horn & Hardart and he must be one smart local business owner to have taken this bold plunge. The company has already earned some pretty awesome unstructured citations from the likes of Bloomberg with this product marketing strategy and they’re planning to open ten more kiosks in the near future.

But Applestone isn’t alone. A kiosk can technically just be a fancy vending machine. Check out Chicago startup Farmer’s Fridge. They recently closed a $30 million Series C round led by one-time Google CEO Eric Schmidt’s Innovation Endeavors. Their 200+ midwestern units provide granola, Greek yogurt, pasta, wraps, beverages, and similar on-the-go fare, and they donate leftovers to local food pantries.

Americans have long been accustomed to ATM machines. DVD and game rental stations are old news to us. We are nowhere near Japan, with its sixty-billion-dollar-a-year, national vending machine density of one machine per 23 citizens, and its automated sales of everything from ramen to socks to umbrellas. Geography and economics don’t point to the need to go to such a level in the US, but where convenience is truly absent, opportunity may reside. What might that look like?

Use your imagination

My corner of the world is famous for its sourdough bread. There are hundreds of regional bakeries competing with one another for the crustiest, lightest, most indulgent loaf. But, if you don’t make it to the local stores by early afternoon, your favorite brand is likely to have sold out. And if you’re working the 47-hour American work week, or gigging California night and day but don’t want to live on fast food, you’d likely be quite grateful to have your access to artisan baguettes restored.

Just imagine every bread bakery around the SF Bay Area installing a kiosk outside its front door, and you can hear the satisfied after-hours crunching, can’t you?

Applestone is selling unprepared meat, Farmer’s Fridge is selling prepared meals, and almost anything people nosh could be a candidate for a kiosk, but why should on-demand products be limited to food? I let my imagination meander and jotted down a quick list of things people might buy at various off-hours, if a machine existed outside the storefront:

  • Books/magazines
  • Weather-appropriate basic apparel (sweatshirts, socks, t-shirts)
  • First aid supplies
  • Baby care supplies
  • Emergency electronics (chargers, batteries, flashlights)
  • Basic auto repair supplies (headlight bulbs, wipers, puncture kits)
  • Personal care products (bathroom tissue, toiletries)
  • Office supplies (printer ink, paper, envelopes, stamps)
  • Household goods (lightbulbs, laundry soap, pantry basics)
  • Pet supplies
  • Travel/camping/athletic supplies
  • Basic craft supplies, small games, gifts, etc.

What if customers who do their morning bike ride at 5 AM knew they could stop by your client’s kiosk to fix a punctured tire? What if night workers knew they could pick up a box of light bulbs or bandages or cat food on their way to their shift? Think of the convenience — in some instances even life-saving help — that could be provided to travelers on the road at all hours, members of your community who are housing-insecure, or whole neighborhoods that lack access to basic goods?

Not every local business has the right model for a kiosk, but once I started to think about it, I realized just how many of them could. I’m initially envisioning these machines being installed at the place of business, but, where the scenario is right, a company with the right type of inventory could certainly place additional kiosks in strategic locations around the communities they wish to serve.

Kiosk Local SEO

Clearly, kiosks can generate revenue, but what could they do for clients’ online presence? The guidelines for representing your business on Google already support the creation of local business listings for ATMs, video rental stations, and express mail dropboxes. But I went straight to Google with the Applewood example to ask if this emerging type of kiosk would be permitted to create listings. They were kind enough to reply:

Twitter DM from Google rep: kiosks are able to create listings, as per guidelines

The link in the Twitter DM reply just pointed to the general guidelines, and I can find no reference to the term “Food Kiosk listing” in them. It’s the first time I’ve ever heard this terminology. But, clearly this representative is naming food kiosks as a “thing.” Google, it seems, is already quite aware of this business model. And the proof of their support is in the Maps pudding:

My, my! Talk about having the ability to hyperlocalize your local search marketing to fit Google’s extreme emphasis on user-to-business proximity. Enough to make any local SEO agency see conversions and dollar signs for clients.

Tip #1: Helpline phone numbers

I’ve written about ATM SEO in the past for financial publications, and so I’ll add one important tip for creating eligible Google listings for kiosks: guidelines require that you have a helpline phone number for kiosk users. I would post this number both on the listings and on the units, themselves. Note that this will likely mean you have a shared phone number on multiple listings, which isn’t typically deemed ideal for local search marketing, but if kiosks become your model and you avoid any semblance of creating fake listings, Google can likely handle it.

Tip #2: Unique local landing pages for your kiosks

I can also see value in creating unique location landing pages on client websites for their kiosks, especially if they aren’t stationed at your physical location. These pages could give excellent driving and walking directions for each unit, explain how to use the machine, feature reviews and testimonials for that location, and perhaps highlight new inventory.

Tip #3: Capitalize on your social media

Social media will also be an excellent vehicle for letting particular neighborhoods know about client kiosks and engaging with communities to understand their sentiments. Seek abundant feedback about what is and isn’t working for customers and how inventory could better serve their needs. And, of course, be sure every client is monitoring reviews like a low-flying hawk.

Is there an appetite for kiosks?

Image credit: Ben Chun

I’m a longtime observer of rural local SEO. I’ve learned that being intentional in noticing small things can lead to big ideas, and almost any novel concept is worth floating to clients. The tiny, free book lending kiosks sometimes officially branded “Little Free Libraries” are everywhere in my county, have become a non-profit initiative, and are driving Etsy sales of cute wooden contraptions. Moreover, my region is dotted with unstaffed farm stands that operate on the honor system, trusting neighbors to pay for what they take. I’d say our household purchases about half of our produce from them.

Within recent recall, the milkman and the grocery delivery boy seemed as distant as the phonograph. Now, consumers are showing interest in having whole meal kitsentire wardrobes, and just about everything delivered. The point being: don’t discount anything that renders convenience; not the traveling salesman, not the automat.

The decision to experiment with a kiosk isn’t a simple one. There will be financial aspects, like how to access a unit that works for the inventory being sold. There will be security questions, as most businesses probably won’t feel comfortable operating on the honor system.

But if the question is whether there is an appetite for the right kiosk, selling the right goods, in the right place, I’ll close today with a look at these provocative, illuminating reviews from just one location of Farmer’s Fridge:

Screenshot: Multiple positive five-star Yelp reviews praising existing kiosks

Sign up for The Moz Top 10, a semimonthly mailer updating you on the top ten hottest pieces of SEO news, tips, and rad links uncovered by the Moz team. Think of it as your exclusive digest of stuff you don’t have time to hunt down but want to read!

Reblogged 2 weeks ago from tracking.feedpress.it

Affordable, Stat-Based Retail Strategy For Your Agency’s Clients

Posted by MiriamEllis

Retail clients are battling tough economics offline and tough competitors online. They need every bit of help your agency can give them. 

I was heartened when 75 percent of the 1,400+ respondents to the Moz State of Local SEO Industry Report 2019 shared that they contribute to offline strategy recommendations either frequently or at least some of the time. I can’t think of a market where good and relatively inexpensive experiments are more needed than in embattled retail. The ripple effect of a single new idea, offered up generously, can spread out to encompass new revenue streams for the client and new levels of retention for your agency.

And that’s why win-win seemed written all over three statistics from a 2018 Yes Marketing retail survey when I read it because they speak to motivating about one quarter to half of 1,000 polled customers without going to any extreme expense. Take a look:

I highly recommend downloading Yes Marketing’s complete survey which is chock-full of great data, but today, let’s look at just three valuable stats from it to come up with an actionable strategy you can gift your offline retail clients at your next meeting.

Getting it right: A little market near me

For the past 16 years, I’ve been observing the local business scene with a combination of professional scrutiny and personal regard. I’m inspired by businesses that open and thrive and am saddened by those that open and close.

Right now, I’m especially intrigued by a very small, independently-owned grocery store which set up shop last year in what I’ll lovingly describe as a rural, half-a-horse town not far from me. This locale has a single main street with less than 20 businesses on it, but I’m predicting the shop’s ultimate success based on several factors. A strong one is that the community is flanked by several much larger towns with lots of through traffic and the market is several miles from any competitor. But other factors which match point-for-point with the data in the Yes Marketing survey make me feel especially confident that this small business is going to “get it right”. 

Encourage your retail clients to explore the following tips.

1) The store is visually appealing

43–58 percent of Yes Marketing’s surveyed retail customers say they’d be motivated to shop with a retailer who has cool product displays, murals, etc. Retail shoppers of all ages are seeking appealing experiences.

At the market near me, there are many things going on in its favor. The building is historic on the outside and full of natural light on this inside, and the staff sets up creative displays, such as all of the ingredients you need to make a hearty winter soup gathered up on a vintage table. The Instagram crowd can have selfie fun here, and more mature customers will appreciate the aesthetic simplicity of this uncluttered, human-scale shopping experience.

For your retail clients, it won’t break the bank to become more visually appealing. Design cues are everywhere!

Share these suggestions with a worthy client:

Basic cleanliness is the starting point

This is an old survey, but I think we’re safe to say that at least 45 percent of retail customers are still put off by dirty premises — especially restrooms. Janitorial duties are already built into the budget of most businesses and only need to be accomplished properly. I continuously notice how many reviewers proclaim the word “clean” when a business deserves it.

Inspiration is affordable

Whatever employees are already being paid is the cost of engaging them to lend their creativity to creating merchandise displays that draw attention and/or solve problems. My hearty winter soup example is one idea (complete with boxed broth, pasta, veggies, bowls, and cookware). 

For your retail client? It might be everything a consumer needs to recover from a cold (medicine, citrus fruit, electric blanket, herbal tea, tissue, a paperback, a sympathetic stuffed animal, etc.). Or everything one needs to winterize a car, take a trip to a beach, build a beautiful window box, or pamper a pet. Retailers can inexpensively encourage the hidden artistic talents in staff.

Feeling stuck? The Internet is full of free retail display tips, design magazines cost a few bucks, and your clients’ cable bills already cover a subscription to channels like HGTV and the DIY network that trade on style. A client who knows that interior designers are all using grey-and-white palettes and that one TV ad after another features women wearing denim blue with aspen yellow right now is well on their way to catching customers’ eyes.

Aspiring artists live near your client and need work

The national average cost to have a large wall mural professionally painted is about $8,000, with much less expensive options available. Some retailers even hold contests surrounding logo design, and an artist near your client may work quite inexpensively if they are trying to build up their portfolio. I can’t predict how long the Instagram mural trend will last, but wall art has been a crowd-pleaser since Paleolithic times. Any shopper who stops to snap a photo of themselves has been brought in close proximity to your front door.

I pulled this word cloud out of the reviews of the little grocery store:

While your clients’ industries and aesthetics will vary, tell them they can aim for a similar, positive response from at least 49 percent of their customers with a little more care put into the shopping environment.

2) The store offers additional services beyond the sale of products

19–40 percent of survey respondents are influenced by value-adds. Doubtless, you’ve seen the TV commercials in which banks double as coffee houses to appeal to the young, and small hardware chains emphasize staff expertise over loneliness in a warehouse. That’s what this is all about, and it can be done at a smaller scale, without overly-strapping your retail clients.

At the market near me, reviews like this are coming in:

The market has worked out a very economic arrangement with a massage therapist, who can build up their clientele out of the deal, so it’s a win for everybody.

For your retail clients, sharing these examples could inspire appealing added services:

The cost of these efforts is either the salary of an employee, nominal or free.

3) The store hosts local events

20–36 percent of customers feel the appeal of retailers becoming destinations for things to learn and do. Coincidentally, this corresponds with two of the tasks Google dubbed micro-moments a couple of years back, and while not everyone loves that terminology, we can at least agree that large numbers of people use the Internet to discover local resources.

At the market near me, they’re doing open-mic readings, and this is a trend in many cities to which Google Calendar attests:

For your clients, the last two words of that event description are key. When there’s a local wish to build community, retail businesses can lend the space and the stage. This can look like:

Again, costs here can be quite modest and you’ll be bringing the community together under the banner of your business.

Putting it in writing

The last item on the budget for any of these ventures is whatever it costs to publicize it. For sure, your client will want:

  • A homepage announcement and/or one or more blog posts
  • Google Posts, Q&A, photos and related features
  • Social mentions
  • If the concept is large enough (or the community is small) some outreach to local news in hopes of a write-up and inclusion of local/social calendars
  • Link building would be great if the client can afford a reasonable investment in your services, where necessary
  • And, of course, be sure your client’s local business listings are accurate so that newcomers aren’t getting lost on their way to finding the cool new offering

Getting the word out about events, features, and other desirable attributes don’t have to be exorbitant, but it will put the finishing touch on ensuring a community knows the business is ready to offer the desired experience.

Seeing opportunity

Sometimes, you’ll find yourself in a client meeting and things will be a bit flat. Maybe the client has been disengaged from your contract lately, or sales have been leveling out for lack of new ideas. That’s the perfect time to put something fresh on the table, demonstrating that you’re thinking about the client’s whole picture beyond CTR and citations.

One thing that I find to be an inspiring practice for agencies is to do an audit of competitors’ reviews looking for “holes” In many communities, shopping is really dull and reviews reflect that, with few shoppers feeling genuinely excited by a particular vertical’s local offerings. Your client could be the one to change that, with a little extra attention from you.

Every possibility won’t be the perfect match for every business, but if you can help the company see a new opportunity, the few minutes spent brainstorming could benefit you both.

Sign up for The Moz Top 10, a semimonthly mailer updating you on the top ten hottest pieces of SEO news, tips, and rad links uncovered by the Moz team. Think of it as your exclusive digest of stuff you don’t have time to hunt down but want to read!

Reblogged 8 months ago from tracking.feedpress.it