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Have you prepared for the digital search revolution?

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Imagine that it’s getting late, and you’re looking for a good restaurant. There’s a lot of choices nearby, and you’re not really sure which ones are still open, so you grab your mobile phone and search Google Maps for “restaurants open now near me.” Maybe you even search using a voice command. That’s what I do.

We hardly think twice about this behavior, but we forget that it’s a recent development. First there were the yellow phone books, then came search engines on our desktop computers, and although the early smartphones were a big improvement, they’re far less-advanced than what we have today. The past few years have witnessed rapid developments in mobile search technology. You might even call it a digital search revolution.

The Shift Towards Proximity

These capabilities have enabled consumers to perform proximity-based searches at the very moment when they’re ready to make a purchase. What’s open? What’s near me? What quick-service restaurants are coming up, and which one has the shortest detour? Let a mobile app filter through hundreds of options and narrow down the choices.

This has become standard behavior. Uberall reports that 82% of U.S. smartphone users have conducted a “near me” search. Google released data in 2018 showing a 200% increase over two years for searches using the words “open”, “now”, and “near me.” The next few years will see continued evolution of this trend as more consumers rely on the simplicity of smart speakers—such as Amazon’s Echo Auto device, which brings Alexa to personal vehicles. BrightLocal reports that 46% of voice search users look for local businesses on a daily basis.

Why Some Retailers Lag Behind

This should be great news for retailers since new technology has made it easier than ever for consumers to search for their locations—regardless of what corner or intersection they’re at.

But there’s a catch. Many fuel and convenience retailers do not have accurate information on the most popular platforms. Unlike hotel and restaurant brands who actively manage their digital listings to provide customers with accurate, up-to-date information, it’s common to encounter fuel and convenience retailers whose listings are full of outdated and misleading information. Some convenience store brands don’t even exist on mobile apps. Instead, they’re listed as whichever brand of fuel they sell. That’s great if someone is looking to refuel a car, but it doesn’t help if they’re looking for snacks or a sandwich.

Inaccurate listings also make it less likely to appear at the top of search results. When contradictory information exists across multiple platforms—as is often the case, since as many as 70% of digital listings are reported to be incorrect—platforms like Google are less likely to view it as trustworthy. Imagine a convenience store brand that has recently acquired multiple stations or switched to a different brand of fuel. Any single station address may exist as different businesses across a variety of map-based platforms.

How Retailers Can Leverage This Trend

To be fair, many retailers feel overwhelmed with the task of updating their listings. It may be reasonable to do it yourself if you have two or three locations, but it’s far too time-consuming once you reach a dozen or more.

At GasBuddy, we leveraged our nearly two decades of industry experience to create a solution that simplifies the process. It’s called GasBuddy Listings Management. We automatically update fuel pricing, amenities, hours of operation, and other crucial information for each station within our customers’ brands. Additionally, our partnership with Uberall—a leading global listings provider—enables us to push this information to Google Maps, Apple, Waze, in-dash navigation systems, and other leading platforms for qualifying brands.

Prior to GasBuddy Business Pages, many retailers experienced frustration when publishing their information to digital listings providers. The presence of both fuel and convenience brands at a single location—and strict publisher guidelines—meant there were limited options to claim and update their information. We take a different approach. The GasBuddy team designed the first and only listings solution tailored specifically for the fuel and convenience retailer. Since we also operate the top platform for consumers seeking their perfect pit stop, we’re well positioned to partner with operators and distributors.

Accurate Listings Generate More Visits

We share some impressive results in a new white paper. One major fuel brand saw a 180% increase in year-over-year views on Google Maps, and a 63% increase in users getting directions to the store. Within the GasBuddy app, a major convenience store chain experienced a 17% increase in users viewing individual stations details after only seven months. Paired with a rise in Pay With GasBuddy card transactions at the fuel pumps, we calculated that they achieved a 30X return on their investment.

Location used to mean placing a fuel or convenience store on the optimal street or intersection. Although that is still important, it is essential in today’s marketplace to have accurate information on the platforms where people are searching for your stores. All it takes is one net new customer per location, per month, to offset the cost of the solution.

The digital search revolution is happening right now. Are you ready for it?

To view a free demo, email us at [email protected]

Analyst/Evangelist, Convenience Store and Retail Trends

Frank Beard is a noted speaker, writer, and industry advocate who serves as GasBuddy's analyst/evangelist of convenience store and retail trends. His insights have been featured in publications such as NPR, USA Today, People.com, and the Washington Post. Beard has presented at the NACS Show, Outlook Leadership, the Partnership for a Healthier America's 2017 Summit, and numerous regional and corporate events.