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When it comes to driving online shoppers into physical stores, there are a number of tools, such as click and collect, vouchers and mobile search. 

One overlooked and perhaps less glamorous method is the store locator tool. 

Here are a few tips to improve your store finder tools... 

What is a store finder?

Store finders, whether mobile or web-based, help users to locate your various branches, normally through a postcode or location search.

Store finders are one of the easiest and often overlooked ways to get web users to visit your store’s physical location(s).

Why use store finders?

A well-designed store locator can be a big help in generating footfall.

Store finders also reduce pressure on customer service lines, as simple questions on location and opening hours can be answered online.

Why do customers find store finders useful?

When implemented well, a store finder helps customers to quickly find a local store, or one nearest to the place they’re heading to.

Let’s say somebody wants to buy a newly released game. A quick search on a site like HMV or Game will enable them to find a location so they can drop in to make a purchase.

When the same principle is applied to mobile, a store finder tool can effectively direct customers to a store in their immediate vicinity and save them valuable time.

According to our recent Multichannel Retail Survey, almost a third (32%) of UK consumers have used their mobile to find a retailer’s nearest store or opening times, with this figure rising to 41% in the US.

Q. Have you used your mobile to find a retailer’s nearest store, opening times, etc?

Not everyone wants to buy online, or is comfortable with buying online, so it’s important that your website accommodates all types of shopper. Brands that can integrate sales channels for consumer research and purchasing can achieve higher levels of customer satisfaction.

Store finders: tips for implementation

A good store locator has to be user-friendly. Any frustration in finding accurate results and shoppers will head for another site.

The following features will help to give customers the information they need to find your store:

Allow searches by postcode and location.

People may not know the exact postcode so give them some options. You could also use maps to help users narrow the search area. Also, allowing a search by the first half of the postcode makes it easier.

Here, House of Fraser provides both options: 

Detect users’ location and serve relevant results

Many shoppers look for information on stores when they’re out and about, via mobile phones that know exactly where they are.

This saves time for mobile users, and should ensure more accurate results. 

Make your store finder mobile friendly

Many searchers may be just minutes from your store, so make it easy to find on their smartphones.

Provide directions

Linking to Google Maps is a great way to present this information to shoppers that use smartphones, and should help them arrive at your store. Unless they have the iOS 6 maps that is. 

Serve up the information they need

People need to know opening times, the kinds of in-store facilities on offer, contact details if they have an enquiry, and so on.

For example, Macys.com's store locator provides links to store events, allowing customers to learn more about what's going on at their nearest store and providing the retailer with additional opportunities to lure them through the doors.

Offer advanced search and filtering functionality

Not all stores are created equal and customers may have a need to search for stores that offer particular services or have certain features. This is where advanced search and filtering functionality becomes necessary.

Example: The store locator on Starbucks.com allows users to filter by a number of very specific criteria, including the availability of digital rewards and mobile payments.

Graham Charlton

Published 6 December, 2012 by Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton is the former Editor-in-Chief at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter or connect via Linkedin or Google+

2565 more posts from this author

Comments (7)

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Ed Nash

Ed Nash, Marketing Executive at Postcode Anywhere

Nice to see the importance of store finder tools being stressed. People still like dealing face-2-face and picking up items when it suits them, instead of staying in and waiting for deliveries.

St Tropez used it to help their online customers locate their nearest professional salon or spa, offering St. Tropez treatments.
http://www.postcodeanywhere.co.uk/about-us/news-item.aspx?n=St-tropez-uses-postcode-anywhere-store-finder

almost 4 years ago

Albie Attias

Albie Attias, Ecommerce Director at King of Servers Ltd

Having designed several store finders over the years, the good ones let you search by town or area name as well as postcode. Furthermore, they'll then return a shortlist of the most relevant stores for your search but also give you the means to widen the search in case you want to look further afield. Carpetright do this well on their website.

almost 4 years ago

Kevin Carlton

Kevin Carlton, Website Copywriter at Write Online

Expanding on the store locator theme, sometimes you get a link once you've arrived at a particular store page, saying 'Click here for map'.

The link then takes you offsite to Google Maps without opening a new tab or window.

Often you'll then see a load of ads down the left-hand side of this Google Maps page, which are for rival companies in the area.

The effect of this, if you do it, is to play right into the hands of your competitors.

i.e. Not only have you taken your visitor away from your site, but you've also taken them to a place where they can see lots of ads for your rivals.

almost 4 years ago

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Guy Mucklow, Senior Web Designer at PCA Predict (formerly Postcode Anywhere)

Another great article Graham. I think store finders are probably one of the most overlooked tools when it comes to usability but as some of our customers will tell you, they can bring huge returns and improvements to footfall.

almost 4 years ago

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Daryl Edgecombe

Nice article. A lot of customers head to the website to find out more about the store or nearest location - and a generous amount of useful information helps them feel confident about the trip and more likely to buy when they get there.

almost 4 years ago

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Daryl Edgecombe, Head of Many Things at Colourbox

Nice article. A lot of customers head to the website to find out more about the store or nearest location - and a generous amount of useful information helps them feel confident about the trip and more likely to buy when they get there.

almost 4 years ago

Tony Johnston

Tony Johnston, Product Director at Franchise 360

Nice article. Personally, I think the key to this is integrating Google maps or i0S6 maps since so many users are generally familiar with that technology. I think if they end up seeing competitors then so be it; users hate it (and your brand) when companies offer poorer service just in an attempt to herd them somewhere.

almost 4 years ago

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