Kimia Meshkinyar is VP of Global Product & Revenue Marketing at Uberall, a global SaaS company that provides ‘Near Me’ marketing solutions for brands and retailers.
We find out more about Kimia’s role, discuss the importance of local brand experiences, and how the predicted future of retail will impact marketing.
Tell us about your role, and how it fits into Uberall’s wider strategy?
I’m Uberall’s Vice President Global Product & Revenue Marketing, and first and foremost, my job is to ensure Uberall consistently delivers value to its customers – and potential customers through existing products and new innovations…
Why is it important for brands to improve the local experience (and has this changed since the pandemic?)
In spite of the significant rise in ecommerce brought about by the pandemic, consumers still favour shopping locally, with Uberall research revealing that 63% of UK consumers surveyed this April strongly favour it. Whether the reason is a desire to support community businesses, or because of the personalised experience and immediacy, UK consumers shop locally even when it’s more expensive or less convenient.
And local doesn’t just mean small businesses. Nearly three out of four consumers consider national brands like Tesco and Sainsbury’s to be local businesses, possibly because their stores have always been a part of the neighbourhood.
Given the importance of the local experience to consumers, multi-location brands should act locally, personalising offerings by location, targeting marketing efforts for individual outlets, and engaging on social media not just globally, but on the local level as well.
What are the biggest challenges for brands when it comes to creating a seamless online to offline customer journey?
More often than not, the first place today’s consumer goes to find store and product information is online, with a search like “pizza open now” or “trainers near me.” In fact, online searches for “in-stock” grew by 70% in 2020, according to Google, and “where to buy” queries increased by 200%.
To connect the online customer journey to the offline one, it’s critical to reach consumers at the right time – when they search for a business’ nearest location or when they’re ready to buy a particular product or service. For a business to even be considered as one of the possible paths on a customer journey, it has to rank highly enough in the search results to catch their attention. And big brands can no longer rely on brand awareness alone. Uberall data shows that only 36% of retail-related searches are for known brands, the rest are “unbranded.”
The good news is that the same things that improve search engine rankings for ‘Near Me’ searches also create a seamless online to offline customer journey. Factors like complete and accurate business citations and listings, as well as responsiveness to online reviews and social media engagement, all contribute to higher search engine rankings and an enhanced ‘Near Me’ customer experience.
What are your predictions for the future of retail, and what might this mean for marketing?
Despite the huge increase in online shopping over the past year, now that non-essential stores have reopened in the UK, early indications are that there’s pent up demand for bricks-and-mortar commerce, and people are going back to shopping in stores. But that doesn’t mean things will go right back to the way they used to be.
Consumer behaviour and expectations have changed after a year of online shopping, contactless payment, and food and grocery delivery. People have grown accustomed to a different world of retail, and won’t be breaking these new habits anytime soon.
At the same time, historically online-only businesses like Amazon and Google are continuing their foray into bricks-and-mortar stores, such as Google’s first-ever physical retail store launching this summer in New York City. Digital retailers see huge potential in physical stores, and we can expect to see plenty of disruption to the in-store experience, in ways that reduce customer pain points and better meet their needs.
But beyond the world of retail, we’re likely to see even more integration of online and offline customer touchpoints across a wide variety of industries. Omnichannel is the future of commerce. Consumers used to view online and in store shopping as completely separate retail channels, but with the internet now the starting point for a majority of retail sales, those hard lines have blurred.
What this means for big brands and local businesses alike is that marketing efforts like optimising store location data and listings management, including Google My Business (GMB) profiles, responding to reviews at the store level, and sharing in-store product inventory on Google are all key tactics needed to succeed in the new retail world order.
How is Uberall approaching new ways of working post-pandemic?
At Uberall, we have seven offices across the globe – our Berlin headquarters plus London, Paris, Amsterdam, San Francisco, Detroit and Montreal. Even pre-pandemic, with multiple offices worldwide, many of our meetings and training were already virtual. As a result, the transition to remote work wasn’t as challenging as it might have been.
And right from the start of the pandemic, we were given the flexibility to make our own personal choices as to where and how we worked, whether that was working from home, in-person at the office – when allowed – or any combination in between. This has enabled our staff to adapt well to changing circumstances throughout the pandemic and beyond.
One of the interesting effects of the widespread increase in remote working is that Uberall is recruiting and attracting candidates from all over the world. This has been great for leveraging a much larger and broader pool of talent, both in terms of experience and perspectives, and looks to be a trend that continues post-pandemic.