At a time when mobile “near me” searches are the new normal, your store locator is your shopping cart. And it’s probably one of the most overlooked opportunities to drive conversions.
For businesses that operate multiple store fronts, store locators are critical revenue-generating assets. But too often, the locators are treated like a forgotten tool sitting on the shelf, collecting dust and rust. Businesses launch them — but not enough companies keep them up to date, optimize them with accurate data, and enrich them with the right content and user experience that will convert searches to revenue.
The reasons for neglecting store locators are understandable. It can be difficult to manage location data properly, especially if businesses operate multiple store fronts connected to a store locator. And oftentimes, brands need to focus on more urgent needs. But improving store locators has become more important because of the rise of omnichannel discovery at the location level.
Consumers’ options for local search have exploded and become more sophisticated, crossing multiple channels and devices. People can search for stores by talking to their cars, order a pizza on Amazon Echo, and ask their watches where to find a cup of coffee nearby. And of course we can always type requests into our smartphones.
Local discovery — based on a foundation of location data — is the common denominator for these searches. According to Google, the number of “near me” searches has increased 34 times since 2011. Mobile makes up 88 percent of near me searches, with those mobile searches growing by 146 percent year over year. In this context, store locators have assumed a renewed importance. Store locators on your website are the crucial link between these near me searches and your store fronts, whether a consumer is looking for an insurance agent, doctor, lodging, or a product nearby. In the apparel/beauty, electronics, and restaurant industries alone, about seven out of 10 consumers say they use store locators to find locations, according to Google. And consumers who use store locators probably have a strong intent to purchase.
But for brands to capitalize on the popularity of these near me searches, they need to treat their store locators like shopping carts, making the discovery process and conversion to offline visits as easy and personal as Amazon does with its own shopping cart:
Amazon delivers to you an efficient discovery process based on a variety of factors such as your search history on the site. But the efficient discovery and purchase does not happen by accident. Amazon constantly tweaks its shopping cart process, applying tools such as A/B testing to ensure that product discovery is quick and frictionless.
Store locators perform as well or better. They should:
- Be easily findable through optimized location data.
- Take visitors down a path of general discovery to a specific answer by providing filtering options such as distance from the user and type of product needed.
- Provide a quick path to conversion through effective search functionality and an elegant user experience.
- Guide users to the “next moment,” or the action that occurs when someone finds you through a search. Store locators create next moments in a number of ways, examples being the publication of mobile wallet offers, driving directions to stores, or appointment schedulers on professionals landing pages.
To make your store locator a powerful shopping cart, I suggest businesses:
- Understand your customers’ omnichannel journeys. How many touch points do they use to find your store locator? What are they looking for, and why? Is your content optimized to help them filter their searches? Chances are that they are finding your locator through a mobile device. Is your site optimized for mobile?
- Manage location data for all your store fronts. Treat location data like a competitive asset, kept accurate, up to date, and distributed to data publishers and aggregators so that your locators appear where and when people conduct near me searches.
- Assess the health of your store locator against a number of factors. For instance, where are customer conversions occurring on your locators? As noted, what search filters do you provide? Where are the searches leading?
- Ensure that your locators enable next moments that will convert searches to in-store visits.
Only by combining accurate location data, contextual content, and a compelling user experience can a business turn its store locators into sources of revenue. At the heart of a successful locator, though, is a connection between location data and consumer intent. With accurate and visible location data, your brand will succeed in the moments that matter most.
Gib Olander is vice president of product at Chicago-based SIM Partners.