Local search approaches can boost conversions.

In today’s retail market it’s clear that using data strategically can increase online sales. But for retailers deploying local search options, conversions can also get a significant boost.

Mohannad El-Barachi, cofounder and chief executive officer of tech firm SweetIQ, offered a case study of one retail client that conducted a pilot campaign for 100 of its stores using local search analytics. The goal was to increase its online-to-offline conversions. Working with the retailer, SweetIQ was able to increase the retailer’s online views by 13 percent while lifting overall sales by 41 percent — and achieve a 117 percent return on investment.

Here, El-Barachi discusses the importance of local search analytics and why having a data strategy is essential in today’s market.

WWD: How can retailers better use big data? What should they consider when developing a data-driven business strategy?

Mohannad El-Barachi: Retailers should approach big data with a purpose in mind. If you as a business have no idea what kind of answers you’re looking for or which problems you’re trying to solve then it is very easy to get lost in the myriad available information. The most important things to consider when you set out: Are you asking the right questions? What goals are you trying to solve? Once you have your questions in mind then you can set out to gather as much data as possible.

WWD: What else should be considered?

M.E-B.: Another important element to keep in mind is the source. Make sure the information you are collecting comes from sources that are trustworthy, otherwise you run the risk of making decisions based on bad data.

Lastly, be sure to hire competent data scientists to help you filter through what you’ve collected so you are able to withdraw a clear answer to your initial questions.

WWD: What role does local search play and how can it be used by retailers?

M.E-B.: It’s well-known in the retail industry that many types of data points can be collected from online e-commerce stores, but it’s thought that replicating this for brick-and-mortar locations is much more difficult. Local search is the bridge that connects the online and offline realms.

WWD: How does a local search approach achieve that?

M.E-B.: To start collecting data for physical locations you have to consider the actions people take online to find you and then bridge that to the types of actions you can track in store. Local search helps with the online portion by tracking the ways people are landing on your store listing, how many times they have seen it, and how they interact with it (by calling your store or getting driving directions).

When you have insight into how people are finding you online you can start optimizing your listings to get more shoppers, and then you can track the actions those shoppers take once they are in store.

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