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The echo of the recent pandemic is still rumbling through the franchise industry. Two years have passed since brick-and-mortar had to close its doors and master technology almost overnight. New business practices implemented at that time may reshape the industry forever.
We saw some players double down on technology to serve customers remotely. Others became more caring by giving back to local communities. And in some cases, brands shifted from the in-person model to an online model in order to adapt better.
Consequently, most marketing became digital. But with twice as many store openings as closings during 2021, the store-closing of 2020 has officially ended. Let’s see what trends are hot and useful for most franchise brands that expect growth in local sales in the post-crisis reality.
Trend 1: Hybrid customer experience
2022 is the time to get people back in stores and find innovative ways to improve their experience, regardless of where and how customers shop. Shoppers no longer distinguish between digital and physical channels. They expect relevant and consistent experiences that span devices, applications and touchpoints throughout their buyer journey.
As a result, most businesses accelerate their efforts to connect digital and physical journeys and build digital capabilities in-store. Acting as a hub for customers who buy online and pick up in-store makes your business model future-proof. A fragmented approach to customer journeys and reliance on legacy technology can stifle progress and pull you out of the competition.
Trend 2: Video for every platform and channel
Video remains a key priority for marketers, as it strongly influences traffic, leads, sales and brand perception. Video is no longer just one piece of your overall marketing plan. It’s central to your outreach and campaign efforts, especially on social.
As video production becomes more affordable, marketers are using videos for an ever-increasing number of goals. For example, brands provide free classes to grow brand awareness, record testimonials to boost credibility, or create explainer videos to make the user journey smooth. It’s also worth noting that more than half of companies are doing this in-house.
Before the crisis, Expedia Cruises had been selling 70% of its cruises in-store. They pivoted after that and started hosting Zoom events with local cruise suppliers to reproduce that valuable in-person experience.
At the same time, FIT4MOM, a workout-for-moms franchise, has added free online classes for their clients’ kids to keep toddlers busy while their moms are doing barre. Both initiatives turned out to be successful by increasing engagement with these brands.
Trend 3: Hyper-localization and personalization
It’s no longer enough to have a lovely storefront to attract crowds. And to tell the truth, you don’t need them. Companies of all sizes can benefit from hyper-local marketing, because it leverages nearby searches and offers a lower cost per target.
Marketers can deliver the right message to the right people much more easily online than via traditional advertising channels. Since most of them rely on digital channels now, local online search and social media have become primary communication channels with the local community.
Starbucks, for instance, used Twitter updates to start a contest in which customers spotted ads placed somewhere in their cities, took photos and uploaded them to Twitter. Expedia Cruises localizes its outreach to build relationships between local agents and customers. They collect and leverage customer data with technology to humanize their brand presence on social media.
They also try to make email marketing as local as possible with the agent’s face, name and the city that they’re from. This helps develop a personalized approach to each customer, making their stay with the company more pleasant.
Trend 4: Mobile apps for quick service
At the start of the health crisis, consumers rushed to social media, and ever since then, they have been using a curbside pick-up, ordering groceries and collecting their food in lockers. People enjoy all these services mainly via mobile apps and among providers who have one-click service, friendly UI and a personalized message.
Crunch Fitness, for instance, uses a mobile app for customer check-ins, bookings, and most importantly, referrals. Before the lockdown, access was gated, and fitness classes were available only with upper-tier membership. Now, it’s open to the general public. FIT4MOM also pushed into mobile marketing. Its on-demand app offers fun and effective fitness programs designed by pros for every stage of motherhood. It helps service customers who prefer to stay online.
From connecting with consumers to maintaining a local presence, a mobile app performs multiple tasks with the principal objective — to serve customers where they are.
Trend 5: Stand out in local search
Eighty-two percent of Americans prefer to support a local business rather than a large corporation. The reason for that is to keep money in local communities and get better customer service and product quality. But how do locals find a nearby business?
To find and buy products and services in their vicinity, people type queries in search engines, social media and third-party directories. Such individuals have an immediate need and are willing to buy right away. Your task at this stage as a multi-location company is to be discovered by a relevant audience.
That’s why local online marketing optimization should become the #1 goal for brands of all sizes, even those without a website. It’s wise to have active, consistently updated local pages for your locations and add local SEO to grow your online findability. If this opportunity is still untapped by your company, you’re likely falling behind.
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