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Setting Up a Digital Footprint

Leslie Carothers offers tips for enhancing your digital presence, whether you offer e-commerce or not.

Diane Falvey
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As a retailer, whether you have an e-commerce site or not, in today’s environment, you need a digital footprint. We caught up with Leslie Carothers, CEO of the Savour Partnership and CEO of the Kaleidoscope Partnership. Carothers also travels to markets around the country to share her digital and social media expertise with retailers and designers.

Especially now, consumers are searching online for goods first, even if they plan to visit a brick-and-mortar. If you aren’t visible to them there, you might be overlooked. It’s important to be where your customers are. 

According to Carothers, the number one thing you can do is maximize your Google My Business listing. “It’s free, and Google gives preference in its search algorithm to companies that are using this well,” she says.

To use Google My Business well, you want to share your location, contact information and business hours at the very least. You can also upload images, videos, additional business information, employee photos and more.

“People should understand that Google My Business gives retailers a free way to have a mini website,” Carothers notes. You can also link to your own website if you have one.

“This is the number one thing you can do for visibility in your e-commerce or brick-and-mortar retail business, over social media sites,” she adds. “Social media is designed to raise brand awareness and drive traffic to your website.” If there is no website or web presence on Google, then those social media platforms are not performing optimally for your business. 

You can also ask for reviews on your Google My Business profile. “They may be more important here than anywhere else,” Carothers continues. “Reviews are a major ranking factor for where your store appears on the Google map. For example, someone might be searching for a sofa in Lake City, TX. If you’re on Google My Business, the map will show the top three locations, and reviews can help you get there.” 

To be on Google My Business, you need to share your physical location, ideal for the brick-and-mortar retailer. “If you’re operating out of your home, however [say in an e-commerce capacity], Google could pull in an image of your home to add to your Google My Business profile. You can upload a cover image to your My Business page, but it’s not a guarantee that Google won’t post an image of
your address.” 

Video is King

Once your Google My Business listing is set up so your customers can find you, another platform you should pay attention to is YouTube. “The one true best thing a retailer can be doing is utilizing YouTube. Video is huge right now, especially with the pandemic,” Carothers notes. “You want to do whatever you can to maximize your YouTube channel.” Getting the most out of YouTube, which is a search engine (like Google), includes maximizing keywords on the back end to ensure good search engine optimization. Like Google, YouTube has a My Business profile, where your information can provide a lot of searchable content. 

Pinterest is similar to Google and YouTube as it is a visual search engine. Understanding the function of these three search engines can drive traffic to your website — you really do need one, even if it isn’t transactional — and/or your Google My Business page. 

Paying for Reach

While keywords and relevant content are important, Facebook, Instagram and even Pinterest want to get paid for reach. It’s in their best financial interest if, as a business, you are paying them to reach your customers. 

“It’s important to plan to have a social media ad budget for these sites to drive traffic to your website,” Carothers says. “You can sell from Instagram and Facebook pages or connect your e-commerce, but behind the scenes you have to be prepared to promote.”

Beyond promoting these channels online and via paid advertisements, be sure to let your in-store customers know that you are selling on these channels so they know their purchasing options. In-store signage and newsletters are great ways to promote digital sales channels. “It’s important for retailers to have e-commerce to compete effectively today,” says Carothers. “People want to feel safer and shopping online is an effective path for that.” If you’re new to e-commerce, she suggests starting with unbreakable and easier-to-ship items. For local customers, curbside pickup is also an option.  

While all of this can seem daunting, you can start with one and work your way into the other platforms. For the best return on your efforts, however, says Carothers, you want to be in more than one place.

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