Brand standardization used to be a priority, but retail businesses are increasingly foregoing out-of-the-box functionality and appeal in favor of individual touches based on location – a practice referred to as localization. There’s even a name for the niche branch of customer research that enables localization. Geodemography is defined by the Business Dictionary as the “process of analyzing survey data of a specific geographical area to profile economic and demographic characteristics of [the] population living there.”
Localization might mean using existing architecture instead of building another replica of your standard store model. (Some communities even enforce this in an effort to preserve local culture and history.) It might mean offering special discounts to employees of some of the area’s largest employers. Local sports team sponsorships, neighborhood events, and even high-tech tactics for garnering positive reviews for Google Maps and Yelp are all part of localized strategies.
Localization is not just applicable to marketing, though. Or really, it is, so long as you realize that the customer experience is a critical component of marketing.
Why does localization matter? Shouldn’t we be guaranteeing the same customer experience no matter which of our locations customers walk into or call?
Well, yes and no. Yes, you should be guaranteeing the same quality of customer service. And a standard of familiarity is customer-friendly, too. You don’t want customers who are confused about where to find things or whom to talk to.
But providing a superior customer service is often about going the extra mile. That means anticipating customers’ needs and wants before they make contact with you. It requires knowing your customers well enough that you can tailor their experience specifically to them.
Geography is as much part of customers’ identity as other vital demographic statistics like age, sex, and income. It’s intrinsically linked to other identifiers, from socioeconomic status to school spirit, but it can also transcend those identifiers as a unifying factor. We are all in this (town) together.
Locality lends itself to in-jokes – you’re clearly not from around here if you don’t know that _____ serves the best pizza/wings/happy-hour nachos, or if you’ve never taken a date to _____. Whether it’s through hometown pride or well-intentioned humor, when local businesses participate in the customs of their surrounding communities, patrons and passerby alike will notice.
So when you’re designing your customer experience down to the last detail, that should include details specific to the locations of your branches. When you combine local knowledge with Voice of the Customer research, you create a customer experience that, literally, can’t be duplicated.