A Real Food Fight: Restaurant sales beat out grocery store sales for first time ever

It’s December 2014, and the U.S Census Bureau has just reported that for the first time on record, monthly restaurant sales have exceeded monthly grocery store sales. Fast forward to April of 2015, and restaurant sales are continuing to exceed those of grocery stores.In fact, from July of 2014 to April of 2015, a $3.1 billion dollar shift in sales from grocery stores to restaurants occurred, which is almost as much as the last 4.5 years combined.
The billion-dollar question many people are asking, is what, or who, is to blame (or thank) for the dramatic shift in sales? Here are a few specific factors as to why people are getting the check, and ditching the cart:

1.) Lower Gas Prices

Believe it or not, less pain at the pump has resulted in a willingness to spend that money elsewhere – particularly on dining out. In fact, almost half of people surveyed attribute their willingness to purchase meals, snacks, or beverages from restaurants, fast food places, and coffee shops to lower gas prices, according to the National Restaurant Association.

2.) Financial Security

As the economy continues to show signs of post-recession growth, people are feeling more comfortable opening their wallets and swiping their credit cards, especially when it comes to eating out. In fact, one-third of people say they are patronizing restaurants more often now than they were one year ago.

3.) Higher Wages

With unemployment rates falling and campaigns for a higher minimum wage plaguing major U.S cities, people are earning more money, and investing it in the restaurant industry. In fact, Americans ages 15 to 24 saw their household income rise 10.5 percent in 2013, the age group that also happens to spend the most money on dining out.

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First reported in an article by Bloomberg, there is one stipulation to consider when comparing the sales of restaurants and grocery stores; the data doesn’t include the sales of big-box stores like Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Target Corporation, and Costco Wholesale Corporation.

Although these stores have been excluded from the study, the data serves as an example of the evolution that has occurred in American eating habits, and how the grocery industry is going to have to adjust to accommodate the change in lifestyle across different generations.

[News] Mobile to Drive 50% of Google Ad Clicks by 2015

Here’s a highlight of some of the top local-business-related news of the week:

[Advertising News] Mobile to Drive 50% of Google Ad Clicks by 2015

Source: Search Engine Land

A new report from Marin Software projects that Google’s mobile search advertising revenue will increase 30% over the next 3 years, rising from 19%of its total ad revenue in 2013 to 50% by the end of 2015. Last year, paid search clicks from mobile devices almost doubled between January and December, indicating a big shift in consumer behavior toward mobile search.

The report also projected that mobile budget share will rise to more than 1/3 of paid search budgets by the end of 2014 as mobile begins to overtake desktop as the dominant search marketing channel.

While cost-per-click (CPC) remained lower for mobile advertising than desktop in 2013, it rose 20.8% over the course of the year. Conversion rates are still lower on smartphones (4.4%) than desktops (5.3%) or tablets (5.5%), but that percentage is increasing at a higher rate than desktop: Smartphone conversions grew 57.1% year-over-year and tablets grew 66.7% compared to 35.9% growth on desktops.

Key Takeaway: Consumers are increasingly turning to to mobile to perform searches, and advertising behaviors are shifting as a result. If you’re planning to run paid search campaigns in the future, you would be wise to include mobile searches in your ad plan; otherwise, you may be missing out on a valuable consumer segment that tends to act more quickly on searches than desktop users.

[Social Media] Sevenly Wins Most Social Small Business Award

News Source: Mashable

Media news site Mashable recently ran a contest to select America’s Most Social Business in America. Out of 32 socially-savvy small businesses, they deemed cause-oriented apparel company Sevenly to be the winner.

Sevenly took the top title based on a number of factors, including:

  • Activity on social: The company maintains active accounts on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, Google+, Pinterest, and Tumblr.
  • Audience involvement: Sevenly has involved customers in its brands processes from the beginning, creating a culture of transparency that has remained during the brand’s growth.
  • Company mission: From day 1, Sevenly has made social causes a part of their company mission. They’ve been able to share with customers on social the impact that their $3 million of donations have had on over 1 million people around the world. Inspiring stuff!
  • Community building: The brand hasn’t just built a community of fans—they’ve been able to curate a global community of followers who believe in their mantra, “People Matter”.

Key Takeaway: Sevenly’s story reminds us that social success isn’t about selling a product, or about growing your follower base just to add numbers. Great companies bring like-minded people together around a shared interest or cause, and help them engage in meaningful conversations. 

[Technology News] Mobile Devices Help Brick & Mortar Stores Bridge the Customer Data Gap 

Source: The Next Web

Small businesses know that certain in-store techniques such as promotions, events, and free samples drive sales. To date, it’s been difficult to quantify the impact of these offline tactics. However, a new study from Millward Brown predicts that “the notion of online and offline marketing will cease to be meaningful in 2014.”

Mobile devices are contributing to 3 improvements that will help small businesses bridge the gap between offline actions and online data, making it easier to improve in-store experience and drive repeat business:

1. Real-time feedback: Apps such as OwnerListens allow customers to provide in-store comments to business owners so that problems can be addressed immediately. This prevents irritated consumers from posting negative reviews later on or missing out on valuable feedback that can help improve operations instantaneously.

2. Cross-platform connections: Mobile device usage will allow small business owners to sync up offline behaviors and online behaviors, gleaning new trends about what their customers want.

3. Profit maximization: POS systems like ShopKeep allow businesses to track consumer behaviors and preferences as they happen so that staff members can make on-the-fly recommendations that will increase profits.

Key Takeaway: Figuring out what motivates customers and what they like and dislike is a challenge, especially offline. Mobile devices are primed to help small businesses bridge the gap so that they have a clear understanding of consumer behavior both online and in person. This will help business owners adapt more quickly to meet their customers’ needs and make better use of real-time tactics and recommendations that contribute to increased profits.

Other news catch your eye this week? Leave a comment and let us know! 

[Study] Small Business Resolutions Focus on Revenue and Efficiency

New year’s resolutions aren’t just for personal goals. A new study from Constant Contact revealed that 53% of small business owners make professional resolutions annually, and 23% make them every few years. Of those who’ve made resolutions before, 33% succeeded in fully keeping them, while 65% said they were somewhat successful in keeping them.
Survey participants shared that their top business resolutions for 2014 are focused on growth, efficiency, and customer outreach and service. The breakdown of responses was as follows:

  • 26 percent: Growing annual revenue
  • 18 percent: Running my business more efficiently
  • 16 percent: Getting more customers/clients
  • 10 percent: Creating better planning
  • 10 percent: Trying different marketing tactics, like mobile marketing
  • 8 percent: Creating a better customer/client experience

Additionaly, when asked how their resolutions would differ if money were no object, small business owners said that they would focus on hiring / training more staff members and spending more on overall marketing and advertising campaigns to boost awareness.

Past resolutions that small business owners have kept from previous years include:

  • Spending more time on content marketing
  • Investing more in team building
  • Making better assessments of business needs

For additional survey results, visit the Constant Contact Newsroom to read the full press release.

Local Listings Information—Where Does It Come From?

Over the past few years, the way consumers find and choose restaurants, spas, contractors, stores, and entertainment has evolved dramatically. No longer are people turning to print magazines, local guides, and newspapers to find information about businesses—they’re performing online searches. Ensuring that your business appears in local search results is a crucial marketing effort. Not only do you want your business listed, you also want your business information to be complete and accurate everywhere consumers are looking.

However, this is easier said that done. You may have already researched your online listings and found a variety of misinformation on different sites and apps. And you may be wondering where, exactly, these publishers get their local listings information from.

While each publisher has its own methods for gathering and validating data, the 6 main sources are:

1. Consumers

Some sites and apps allow users to add information about a business, regardless of whether or not they’re affiliated with the business.

2. Business direct claims/submissions

This is when someone directly affiliated with the business provides information to publishers.

3. Listing management services

These services (such as SinglePlatform) help small businesses manage their listings across multiple publishers from a single location.

4. Data aggregators

This source compiles business listing information from multiple channels such as public records, surveys, utilities, merchants, agencies, and web-mining efforts.

5. Vertical-specific providers

This source gathers and sells category-specific business information to others.

6. Scraping

Some publishers use scripts to extract or “scrape” business information from websites.

With all of these sources providing publishers with information, the task of reclaiming your local listings may seem daunting. But never fear. Our latest publication, “The Mechanics of Local Listings,” will walk you through the steps you should take to make sure your business has a cohesive presence across all local search sites and apps. Download the free eBook today.

5 Reasons Your Business Should be Present on Mobile

Last week, you learned how mobile search can help you connect with new customers. But you may still be feeling skeptical about the value of mobile. After all, it’s no small commitment to manage your business listings, maintain a mobile-friendly site, and create marketing campaigns with mobile in mind.
So why should you set aside the time, money, and resources needed to invest in mobile? Here are 5 compelling reasons:

1. 55% of All Adult Smartphone Owners Surf the Web on Mobile

At the end of 2011, 93.1 million consumers owned a smartphone. If over half of them perform online searches on their mobile device, that’s an audience of more than 51 million potential customers—definitely worth going after.

2. 77% of Mobile Searches Happen at Home or Work

People are increasingly likely to research local businesses on mobile, even if there’s a PC available. And on-the-go searches are a growing part of the mobile search equation. Having up-to-date listings and a mobile-friendly website will ensure than potential customers can find you wherever they happen to be, whenever they happen to be looking. 

3. 75% of Mobile Searches Trigger Follow-up Actions

The majority of consumers who perform a search on mobile will go on to take further action, whether it’s calling a retailer, visiting a store, making a purchase, or sharing information about a business. If people can find you easily on mobile, they’ll be highly motivated to engage with you.

4. 63% of Mobile Searchers Act within 1 hour of Initial Search

Not only do a high percentage of mobile searchers follow up with businesses—they also do so quickly. And the more quickly consumers take action, the more likely they are to follow through, which is great news for your business.

5. 55% of Mobile Conversions Occur within 1 hour of Initial Search

Consumers who find your business on mobile are primed to make a purchase shortly after they discover you. 81% of mobile conversions happen within 5 hours of search; of that segment, 55% occur within an hour.

The Bottom Line

Mobile is an important mode of search for consumers, helping them find and act on information quickly. With the number of mobile web users growing each year, it’s worth the investment to make sure your business is putting its best foot forward in the mobile space.

Keeping Up With Consumers: The Toughest SMB Marketing Challenge

I’m admittedly a bit of a social media/tech geek.  I love to try out the latest and greatest (or not so great) social networks and apps and often insist on telling people about them.  I also generally like everything. To that point where I have even come around on Google+, which I used to really enjoy bashing.
But I am a marketer by trade and literally get paid to know all this stuff. As a local business owner I can only imagine how it must all feel.  Just when you start getting comfortable with one marketing channel, another appears.  And another, and another and another.

In fact, our latest eBook shows that 70% of local business owners state that they don’t have the time to keep their online listings up to date on all of the networks that consumers use.  Heck, I barely have time to keep up with all of networks and I’m not trying to run a spa or a restaurant or a construction business.

So, what should you do about it?  I have three pieces of advice.

1) Focus on the networks that matter to your core audience.  Maybe you know what your customers like already, but it never hurts to ask them what channels they like and what they want to hear about from you.  For some businesses Twitter is right, for others it’s Yelp.  For many others it’s Facebook.  Don’t risk wasting your valuable time by just guessing!  Not sure what each network does?  Check out Constant Contact’s Social Quickstarter web site for a quick overview.

2) Use a tool to help you manage your listings.  While there are certainly challenges associated with the multitude of listing sites and social networks there are also many positives.  Even as the Internet splinters into tons of networks you can get your products and services in front of people by using software (like SinglePlatform) that lets you update once and publish everywhere people search online.  You can make yourself crazy by trying to be everywhere at once but there are tools to help make your life easier!

3) Run your business first.  My friend Mark Schmulen, co-founder of NutshellMail (also acquired by Constant Contact), likes to say “there is no marketing cure for sucking” and I totally agree.  If you’re not creating a great experience for your customers when they visit your business than it doesn’t matter what networks you are on.

How much do you worry about keeping up with the latest consumer networks?

Download our free eBook to see how local businesses are using local and mobile search to drive their business.

[Study] 78% of Local Businesses Believe New Customers Find Them via Search Engines

On this blog we often talk about how the way that consumers find local businesses has fundamentally changed over the last few years.
While traditional methods of attracting new customers to your location still may work, those local businesses who do not take advantage of online and mobile search directories, ratings and review sites, and social networks to find new customers will be left behind. In fact recent industry data shows that 2/3 of consumers use local search to find businesses at least once a week.

The good news is that many local businesses are starting to reap the benefits of this leveling of the playing field.  Today, you can win by being found online without buying tons of ads that many small businesses can’t afford.  But it’s not enough to just have your name and your hours published in your online listings across the internet.  You need to be include your products, your services, your prices, and more so whatever people are searching for they will find your business if you have what they need.

According to Google, more than half of local searches don’t have a specific destination in mind.  That means that your potential customers are searching for things like “flowers” or “buffalo wings” or “auto repair” near them and not just “Danny’s Pizza” or “Flower Barn.”

In fact, according to our own just released research, 78% of small businesses believe that they are getting new customers through search engines today and 85% of small businesses already believe it is important to be seen on major search sites like Google, Yahoo, TripAdvisor, Yelp and Yellow Pages .

While local businesses have traditionally been slower to adopt emerging avenues for getting new customers in the past, tons are already seeing the benefits of creating compelling digital storefronts across the web.

If you’re not putting your best foot forward by featuring your products and services on key search sites and mobile apps, you may be missing opportunities to reach consumers as they search for a great local business to visit.

Learn more by downloading our free eBook, 10 Facts: Why Small Business Owners Need to Pay Attention to Mobile and Local Search.

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