Location, Location, Location: Can Your Customers Find Their Local Franchisees?


Planning, implementing and tracking an effective online strategy can be difficult, but solutions are available.

By Chel Heler, Cecelia Choi and Jenya Denissova

Is it necessary for franchisees to have a local presence online even though the franchisors already represent the brand? The answer is “Yes, absolutely!” Local marketing is extremely important and often crucial for the success of local businesses. When it’s aligned and combined with the brand efforts of the franchisor, it yields great results. We live in a culture of instant gratification. When consumers can’t find what they’re looking for in the first few seconds of a search query, four-out-of-five turn to a competitor who has provided them with more relevant information. A local store’s information that can’t be found when a user is performing an online query would be the same as a storefront without a sign that would help a passerby identify the services or goods that were inside. Many franchise brands have built successful national marketing strategies, both online and offline. However, only about 50 percent of franchises have developed a complementary local strategy for their multi-unit locations, according to a survey about digital marketing behavior conducted by Todd Rowe, Google director of global channel sales, of IFA’s 2014 annual convention audience. The common questions that arise are: Where do I start? How do I maintain brand control at the local level? How do I scale my local strategy to our hundreds or thousands of locations? Google partnered with several companies in May, to uncover consumers’ local search behavior across smartphones and computers/tablets. This study explored consumers’ local search behavior in nine verticals: auto, consumer product goods, finance, local services, media and entertainment, restaurant, retail, tech and travel. There were three major findings from the study:

  • Consumers search with their location and proximity in mind.
  • Local searchers take action.
  • Consumers prefer and act on location-based ads.

Consumers are searching for local information everywhere, on every device, at every point in the purchase process. Four-in-five consumers conduct local searches online and these searches span across smartphones, tablets and desktop computers. When consumers are searching with their smartphones, they are typically on the move and search for things such as directions or store hours. On their desktops, they spend more time researching things such as product availability in a particular store. By including product availability, location and directions in local ads, and setting up Google My Business pages across smartphones and computers/tablets, you’ll be able to reach customers in the most likely context that they’ll be searching for your business.

Local Searchers Are Ready to Act

Many searchers visit a nearby location within a day and complete purchases at a higher rate than consumers who conduct non-local searches. In fact, 18 percent of local smartphone searches led to a purchase within a day. One in three consumers search on their smartphones right before they visit a store and 50 percent of consumers visit a store within a day of their local searches.  The majority of consumers will visit a store if it is within five miles of their location. Consumers expect ads to be tailored to their location. Sixty-seven percent (72 percent desktop) of smartphone users want ads customized to their city/ZIP code and 61 percent (70 percent desktop) of smartphone users want ads customized to their immediate surroundings. Most local searchers also use the local address or phone number to get directions or call a franchisee. Amplify your appeal with location bid adjustments to fine-tune bids for specific areas such as cities or ZIP codes. Google AdWords continues to improve the experience for local businesses to reach their customers. Advertisers have the ability to tailor their ads to a customer’s location, time and device. Now when a customer searches for a franchisee, an ad will provide the exact information that he is looking for.

Google My Business

Local advertising is an essential part of your local marketing strategy, but it is also very important to make sure that your franchisees’ addresses, phone numbers and hours of operation are correct across all Google products. Google has made this easy to manage your franchise business identity with the launch of Google My Business. Google My Business is a free product that enables franchise brands to manage their business information from one place, which is then pushed out to all Google products. This will ensure that business information will be accurate on Google Maps, the Google Search knowledge graph and Google AdWords Location Extensions. Google My Business makes sure franchises can be visible, can connect and engage with their customers. With GMB, franchises can edit their business details, post content, view business metrics and manage customer reviews all from one place. When a franchise creates a GMB page, it becomes the company’s hub for customer engagement. It gains the ability to create an online community of followers for their business. This gives the franchise a way to engage with its customers through posts, pictures and event invites. Once GMB pages have a high level of engagement from both the franchise and its consumers, when customers search for the franchise on Google, the franchise will appear on the Google knowledge graph. The franchise business information will occupy the entire right side of the Google search results which replaces prime advertising real estate for free. All of the franchise business information will show up in the knowledge graph including the business’s details, reviews and most recent posts. Google My Business also gives franchises the ability to communicate with their customers. A franchise is able to directly reply to its customers’ reviews and ensure that their questions and concerns are being addressed. This enables franchises to build higher loyalty with their customer base. Google My Business offers a solution for franchisors who have a lot of locations, called Google My Business Locations. With Locations, franchisors are able to manage 10 or more franchisees’ business identities from one place. This gives franchisors the power to manage many locations at scale and maintain a consistent brand identity. Franchise customers are constantly searching for local franchisee business information and they expect to find relevant and accurate information with local intent. Nearly 45 percent of franchises do not have a mobile optimized website, thereby losing to their competitors when their customers are searching from a mobile device, according to local advertising and research firm BIA Kelsey. It is not enough to provide general information about your franchise; you should provide franchisee location information using GMB to appear on Google Search, Google+ and Google Maps. While a lot of these tips might be easy to understand, Google acknowledges that planning, implementing and tracking an effective online strategy can be difficult. There are many Google Partners who are experts in national and local marketing within the franchise industry that provide solutions to give the best return on investment for advertisers. These Google Partners will ensure that your franchisees’ business information is accurate and your locations are optimized to Google standards.

Chel Heler is franchise strategic partner manager; Cecelia Choi is partner manager on the channel partnerships team; and Jenya Denissova is head of traditional media/franchise/real estate for Google. Find them at fransocial.franchise.org.