This article originally appeared in the September edition of OPE Business.
Promoting Your Inventory (For Free) on Google
It is no secret that all OPE dealers have been affected in way or another by inventory shortages this year. Every dealer I have spoken to has spoken at length about the long-term implications of the disruption in the supply chain. But what about the inventory you DO still have on your showroom floor? The cupboard hasn’t been left completely bare, it’s just the shift we are seeing is that customers who may have been looking for a lower end model, might be more easily upsold to a more robust machine. So how do you make consumers aware of the models you do have available?
When the pandemic hit, online retailers were obviously in a much better position to serve customers than physical retailers who don’t have online stores, further widening the gap between online and offline retail. Outdoor equipment dealers should have been more insulated from this because most manufacturers don’t allow whole goods to be sold online. Yes, I know that there are a handful of online stores that are selling zero turn mowers on the web, shipped directly to your door, regardless of OEM rules and regulations. But for those of you who play by the rules, you are left to figure out how to compete in the online space. Enter Google.
Last year, in response to the pandemic, Google announced a program that largely flew under the radar that allows physical merchants to use Google Merchant Center to carve out a presence in search results normally reserved for shopping ads that shows local inventory available for pickup at a local store. This program was aimed at leveling the playing field for local merchants who could offer the one thing the online retailers cannot – the instant gratification of same day local pickup. So, when someone searches for a specific model like a Cub Cadet XT2, the search results at the top of the page will show shopping ads for local retailers that carry that model or models like it. Local consumers will now be driven to your storefront, instead of to an online store. According to Google, a shopping 76% of people who conduct a local search on their smartphone visit a physical store within 24 hours and 28% of those visits result in a purchase. Clearly, the dealers that make the effort to optimize their local presence, will reap the benefits.
It takes a little technical know-how to get set up in Merchant Center so that your on-hand inventory is consistently accurate, but once you are set up, the process can be automated so it is truly a set it and forget it marketing tactic.
Adding products to Google My Business
I’ve spoken at length in the past about the important of Google My Business because it’s the single most important (and free) tool that you can use to promote your business. If it’s been a while since you’ve logged into your Google My Business profile, you may not have noticed that there is now a Products section where you can add equipment directly to your profile.
This is a more manual process, but with a few clicks to upload a product image, add a product name and description, you can create an entire online catalog directly with your GMB profile. Adding rich data like this not only increases your exposure to local shoppers, but it helps the overall visibility of your profile.
You can also manage your profile directly from the GMB app on your smartphone, making it easy to add products, directly from your showroom floor, including used equipment or hard to find parts. These products can be categorized by make, model or type and they do not expire so ongoing maintenance of this section of your profile is minimal.
Google has done an admirable job of attempting to champion small and medium businesses in their struggle to compete against larger companies with seemingly unending resources. Google My Business and free local inventory ads are specifically designed to put local businesses on even footing with large chains and big box stores by providing customers with local shopping options. All you have to do is take advantage of the tools available to you.
Brett Morris is the owner of Dealers Digital, a digital marketing agency for outdoor power equipment dealers and dealerAMP, a marketing automation platform for the OPE industry. He can grease all the fittings on a Woods Batwing in under 7 minutes.