Geotargeting: Getting Local to Boost Sales and Customer Loyalty

By Hallie Mummert

December 16, 2011

Geotargeting is the practice of changing your website content based on each visitor’s identified geolocation, including country, state, city, ZIP code, shipping zone, IP address and more. By localizing your copy, graphics, offers and other ecommerce features on your website for each visitor, you create a more customized shopping experience that better reflects the needs, tastes, and trends unique to their community. In return, you’ll benefit from better conversion, average order value, market share and brand loyalty.

Consider any or all of the following four strategies to entice, engage and convert online shoppers that are featured in our whitepaper, 10 Proven Strategies for Geo-Targeted Marketing:

1. Manage foreign relations.

When people visit your site from overseas, welcome them—and not just because it’s the polite thing to do. Since overseas shoppers will see a dot-com URL, rather than their nation’s extension, they’re likely to wonder: Does this company ship to my country? If so, can I expect to pay exorbitant shipping costs? FreePeople.com used geotargeting, for example, to spell out favorable terms for shoppers from all parts of the world. For instance, when the page loads for UK shoppers, geotargeting technology recognizes their location and displays a box with clearly defined benefits just for that traffic segment, including flat-rate shipping and the ability to shop in their native currency. In another example, when German visitors reach the landing page, FreePeople.com displays a banner with a German flag and the text: “Now Shipping to Germany.”

2. Offer tax relief.

When a shopper visits from a sales-tax-free state, it pays to let consumers know. While it’s one of the easiest geotargeting campaigns to deploy (after all, you’re simply announcing a benefit that already exists), sales tax announcements are shown to increase average order value significantly. Sheplers.com runs a “No Sales Tax” banner above the navigation bar, as shown below, showing only to those shoppers from applicable states. For UrbanOutfitters.com, a lightbox with a “Tax Free!” notice appears in a lightbox.

Geotargeting: No Tax Message

3. Always be relevant.

Online retailers can leverage geotargeting to account for varied target markets’ seasonal differences. In Australia and New Zealand, for instance, summer runs from December to February, when most American shoppers can’t get enough winter wear. In an A/B test for FreePeople.com, a seasonal message was visible to only visitors from Australia and New Zealand, for 22 days. Versions A and B were identical but for one factor: In Version A, the promotional banner featured the seasonally relevant copy, “Shop Summer Sale!” From that copy, shoppers understood that FreePeople.com was offering of-the-moment garments for their wardrobes—right now. In Version B, the banner was more generic, reading: “Stock Up on Sale!” Although the two banners—which differed in only the most subtle way—took visitors to the same sales page, Version A’s “Shop Summer Sale!” copy inspired 49 percent more prospects in Australia and New Zealand to buy merchandise.

It also landed 265 percent more total first-time customers from those countries.

4. Practice your languages.

From a usability perspective, asking users of different native languages to “choose your country” on a landing page takes visitors one too many steps away from shopping and viewing products. From an SEO perspective, it throws up an unnecessary and ultimately costly barrier for search engines. Our testing has shown that ecommerce marketers who translate only the most critical component on their site—the navigation bar—meet and exceed the expectations of non-English-speaking visitors. On Freepeople.com, shoppers from French- and Spanish-speaking countries see the menu in their respective languages, while the rest of the site appears in English. By changing only the navigation bar language, FreePeople.com offers a customized experience for shoppers in those markets without a costly, resource-intensive site translation.

If these geotargeting applications piqued your interest in how to make your ecommerce website more local, check out six more geotargeting ideas in our free whitepaper, 10 Proven Strategies for Geo-Targeted Marketing. You’ll learn how to tailor your website promotions according to visitors’ proximity to your or competitors’ physical stores, shipping facilities, and more.

Hallie Mummert is the former managing editor at Monetate. For the past two decades, she reported on trends and best practices in the marketing field for Target Marketing, a business-to-business trade publication. She also moderated webinars and created paid content for the magazine's parent company, North American Publishing Company.

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