As search technology evolves, consumers are quick to adopt new and faster ways to research and locate the products and services they want to buy. Local and “near me” searches expose your business to new customers looking to make purchases in the immediate future – usually within the day.
According to 2019 data from Think with Google, 83% of U.S. shoppers who visited a store in the last week say they used online search before going into a store. Additionally, the same report showed that “where to buy” + “near me” mobile queries have grown by over 200% in the past two years and mobile searches for “on-sale” + “near me” have grown by over 250% year-over-year in the last two years.
The Fast and Steady Growth of Digital Assistants and Voice Search
Digital assistants and voice search have turned our devices into magic wands. But instead of saying abracadabra, you just have to say, “Hey Google,” or “Alexa,” or “Hey Siri,” to find anything you want.
Forecast from U.K.-based Juniper Research estimates that 8 billion digital voice assistants will be in use by 2023, up from 2.5 billion assistants at the end of 2018. Most of those voice assistants will be on Android and iOS smartphones, where Google Assistant and Siri are ready to help – hands-free.
2018 research by Strategy Analytics estimated that in 2019, around 50 percent of smartphones will have a virtual assistant that can be controlled by chat or voice, and by 2023, availability on smartphones is expected to increase to 90 percent.
BrightLocal reports that 76% of smart speaker users perform local voice searches at least weekly, and 46% of users perform voice searches to look for information on local businesses daily.
Local SEO has always been and will continue to be about ensuring your business shows ups where consumers are looking for a way to get the quality products and services they want in the area they are in.
The exponential growth in voice search demonstrates the need to optimize for voice-based commands that include phrases such as “near me” and “open now.” Optimize content for long-tail keywords that answer the questions that are likely to be spoken, make your phone number and address easily accessible, and keep your Google My Business listing updated and complete.
Where you are now competing for real estate on page one, and the top three spots in organic results, the rise of voice search means competition is for the one and only “best” answer for spoken responses. Local businesses that optimize their SEO for voice search will have the advantage in the future of Near Me searches.
In-Store Search Users Aren’t Shopping Competitors
You probably assume that customers on their phone using search engines in-store are looking for nearby or online competitors selling the same things at a lower price. But that is not always what is happening.
According to Google, “While comparison shopping does happen, most in-store shoppers are actually searching online for more information about your store, brand, or the products you offer. In-store shoppers are 4X more likely to search on Google for the retail brand of the store they’re currently in compared to the next highest competitor, and there are 6X more Google searches for the retailer than for “amazon.”
Anticipating and delivering on in-store search needs helps you seal the deal and get the sale. Win search moments by setting up your online presence to provide fast and meaningful assistance to people using search while at your location. Look at the online customer journey for your industry so you can build an in-store search strategy that provides the content that customers are looking for.
If you have no idea what your customers are looking for before they arrive and once they reach your location – ASK THEM. Whether it’s product reviews, coupons, or things to do while waiting on services, part of your “near me” strategy should include what happens when they are still on search engines after arriving at your store.
Optimize Now for the Future of Near Me Searches
The expectation of finding precisely what you want, exactly when you want it using a search engine is growing. In fact, unless a person turns off the GPS option, Google search assumes local businesses relevant to search queries are useful links for both organic and paid spots on search engine results pages.
Make sure you’re showing up in moments of intent throughout the purchase journey and giving customers the answers they are looking for. The future of “near me” search means increased visibility and more customers for businesses that know how to rank in search engines for local consumers.