Retailers’ Store Finders are either ‘too simple’ or ‘too complicated’

Published on October 14th 2019
By Fraser Hardy

Are you the type of person who still uses the Yellow Pages to find a store’s location or phone number?

Of course you’re not, because it’s not 1989 and we no longer have time for that (also, as of this year, Yellow Pages phone books will cease to exist).

When we want to visit a store, we pull out our phones or flip open our laptops, type the company name into Google and expect to easily find the nearest location.

In today’s digital age, having an effective store locator on your website has a major impact on your brand presence, footfall traffic to your stores and your potential for future income.

Samsung has detailed information about all its stores, such as addresses, phone numbers, and products and services on offer.

Here’s how to ensure your brand’s store finder or locator is optimised to its full potential:

Store finders are making it difficult for customers to find the right stores

With today’s technology, there are numerous touchpoints taking place across online and offline channels that play a vital role in the customer journey. For instance, your customers might be:

All these relatively basic customer journeys rely on one thing – the customer has to be able to successfully locate your store.

A study by user experience research firm, Nielsen Norman Group, analysed the usability of store finders and store locators across a range of different industries and businesses of all different sizes and unveiled some interesting findings.

The study asked its 46 participants to find a store that was closest to their location or a designated location, and then asked to get directions to that store. In other instances, the respondents were asked to find a location that met specific requirements, such as being open at a particular time or offering a particular service.

Success rates at finding and using the store locators sat at an impressive 97%, the study found. However, users only accomplished 57% of the tasks easily. This means users failed to find the store 3% of the time, but ran into difficulties with the store locators almost 40% of the time.

In a real world setting, not only does the store finder need to enable customers to find a store, it also needs to be easy and visually appealing, otherwise people will simply give up or lose interest.

To use a store finder successfully, a consumer needs to achieve the following three steps:

1) Locate the store finder on the website

2) Use the store finder to pinpoint their desired location

3) Get directions from their starting point to the store’s location.

The study revealed that steps one and three are relatively straight-forward – especially given today’s accessibility to mapping tools like Google Maps – yet step two proved challenging. Many store finders on sites are either ‘too simple’ or ‘too complex’, especially when it comes to finding locations that meet their specific needs.

How do consumers find directions to your store?

When it comes to finding directions to a store’s location, there’s a heavy reliance on mapping tools like Google Maps, Apple Maps or Waze for journey directions.

The Nielsen Norman study found four-fifths of users went directly to a search engine or mapping app when asked to find the nearest location for their personal bank, while the remaining fifth went directly to their bank’s website or app.

This raises the question: are you better off not worrying about including a location finder on your own site, given that so many people use search engines or mapping apps instead?

When visiting a retailer’s website, it’s now a commonly-held expectation that there’s a store locator function present, and when a consumer browsing your website makes the decision to visit one of your stores, this information needs to be readily available.

Brown Thomas provide information about each of its stores in a visually engaging way.

Also, customers who start out searching for a store on a search engine or mapping app often make their way to a website’s store finder page for more specific details, such as the services or amenities that are on offer at that particular store – or to check inventory on a particular item.

When it comes to finding specific directions to a store, the study also revealed that most businesses are linking out to external mapping tools instead of using their own. Interestingly, this often leads to a better experience for the end user as, instead of having to learn a new map interface for every site they visit, customers can use one they’re already familiar with and trust.

Consumers are big fans of the ‘Use Current Location’ option

Another crucial aspect for a store finder function is geolocation. The ability for consumers to use their current location to find a nearby store saves them the effort of typing their location into the search function of your store finder page, which might sound trivial but has a significant impact on the user experience, especially for mobile users.

NatWest has a ‘Locate me’ button next to the search button, making its geolocation feature explicit.

In the Nielsen Norman study, the majority of participants allowed access to their current location when a site requested it. They also recommended included an obvious ‘Use Current Location’ element, as a number of users failed to notice the browser button or popup requesting their location as their attention was focussed elsewhere on the page.

Include appointment booking as an option

If your stores offer the option of booking an appointment in-store with a consultant or member of staff, we recommend including this into the store finder functionality as well, or making it obvious on the homepage of your website.

By enabling customers to pre-book appointments online to your store, you can easily boost footfall and, subsequently, convert more customers. Read this NatWest case study to find out more about increasing footfall through pre-booked appointments.

Regularly update your stores’ Google My Business accounts

With the increasing reliance on sites like Google Maps to find store locations, it’s incredibly important to update your store details on Google My Business.

NatWest regularly updates all its stores’ Google My Business accounts to ensure all the branch information is correct.

Google My Business gives businesses the option of submitting and moderating information about their stores, like addresses, phone numbers and opening hours, as well as including images and a link to their website.

According to BrightLocal, between Q4 of 2017 and Q4 of 2018, direct searches for store locations grew by 38%, while website clicks from Google My Business listings grew 29%.

And if your business has numerous stores or locations, we recommend managing your Google My Business accounts from your head office, as the process of updating details can easily become overly complicated when your stores are managing it on an individual basis.

What functionalities does your store finder need?

In summary, here’s some of the basic functionalities that make up an effective store finder:

It also needs to be visually appealing and easy for customers to use. While it might seem minor, mastering the basics like your store finder function is well worth the effort and will have a significant impact on your business in the long run.

For more information about driving more customers into your stores, check out our case studies page to see how we’ve helped O2, Samsung, Specsavers, Brown Thomas and NatWest.

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