How L’Oréal and Other Innovative Brands Are Reinventing the Store Locator

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Online store locators were among the first examples of local search on the internet. Chances are you’ve used store locators for years, even if you’re unfamiliar with the term. For chains and franchises, the locator is the page on the company’s website that directs consumers to the nearest store, usually accompanied by a map, links to driving directions, and other standard features such as store operating hours. When consumers already have a brand in mind, store locators are often the most efficient path to find relevant local store information.

One might assume that, in the age of Google Maps and other popular directories, store locators have become less important, and it’s true that one doesn’t hear them mentioned as often these days in conversations about the critical elements of location marketing. But this isn’t because brands find store locators unnecessary. On the contrary, just about every multi-location brand in existence has some kind of locator in place on their corporate website. Still, there is a perception that locators are a known entity, table stakes rather than a focus of innovation.

That perception should be questioned, especially in light of some recent use cases for brand locators that have brought to light their distinct value. Yes, it’s true that most consumer searches originate with Google and other search engines and that consumers often find the information they need in third-party properties like Google Maps, Yelp, and TripAdvisor without the need to turn to the business website. But these sites and apps have limitations, only making certain fields and features available and generally presenting a uniform, abbreviated view of businesses.

Store locators, along with their companion properties, local store landing pages, offer a far greater degree of freedom for introducing features that differentiate a brand from the competition. 

L’Oréal launches makeup recycling campaign with the help of Maybelline store locator

A notable case in point is the cosmetics giant L’Oréal, which recently unveiled the “Make-up Not Make Waste” campaign in the UK with its Maybelline brand to enable consumers to recycle their used or unwanted cosmetics, which are notoriously difficult to recycle. In collaboration with recycling firm TerraCycle, L’Oréal established makeup recycling stations at popular drugstore chains such as Tesco, Boots, and Superdrug. The brand had previously conducted a survey of Maybelline customers that found nearly 50% were unaware that makeup products could be recycled. 

As noted in the BBC’s coverage of the campaign, the primary means by which L’Oréal promoted the availability of recycling stations was through the Maybelline store locator, built for the company by Brandify. As you can see from the screenshot below, the Maybelline locator now includes a prominent filter helping customers to easily find nearby makeup recycling locations. 

According to TerraCycle’s Stephen Clarke, the participation of a wide variety of stores differentiated this recycling campaign from other similar efforts and would make it easier for consumers to participate. Indeed, it’s possible through the Maybelline locator to find multiple recycling stations in most U.K. cities.

Maybelline store locator now includes prominent “Makeup Recycling Locations” filter

More examples of innovation with locators

As the L’Oréal example illustrates, store locators offer the distinct advantage of high customizability, meaning that brands can bring to consumers’ attention a broad range of offerings, features, store types, and more, unrestricted by the limitations of third-party publishers. 

For example, a prominent restaurant chain working with Brandify was interested in promoting online ordering and reservations. Working together with Brandify and their ordering and reservations vendor, the restaurant placed prominent “Order Now” and “Reservations” buttons in the header of its corporate website. These calls to action were new entry points directing traffic to the restaurant locator, where diners could locate (or be automatically directed) to the nearest restaurant location in order to place an order or request a reservation. 

A well-known ice cream brand also wanted to link its locator with online delivery, and in this case the brand wasn’t primarily concerned about driving traffic to its own stores, but rather to other retailers carrying its ice cream products. They compiled a massive database linking third-party retailers carrying the brand’s products with services like DoorDash, Postmates, and, in the case of convenience chain 7-Eleven, the chain’s own 7Now delivery service. A prominent “Delivery” call to action on the brand website leads customers to the nearest stores and links to available delivery services.

Finally, a popular chain of craft stores found that, starting from the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, consumer interest in crafting products was much higher than usual. Offerings like curbside pickup and same day delivery were especially important to the brand’s customers, and the brand wanted to ensure that customers were aware of the availability of these features at store locations. Taking a tip from Google’s introduction of attributes like “Curbside pickup” in Google My Business, the brand with Brandify’s help added the same service features to its store locator — adding “Buy online, pick up in-store,” which Google does not currently support. 

Extending brand voice and messaging through locators and local pages

In summary, store locators provide an opportunity for brands to showcase features, offerings, store types, and calls to action in a manner that is unrestricted by anything except the brand’s own priorities. Third-party sites and apps may garner more unbranded search traffic, but even those search results often lead consumers to the business website, where a customized brand experience can be presented that answers consumer needs and adheres to the voice of the brand. 

Store locators capture a parallel source of consumer traffic, where consumers visit the brand website due to interest or loyalty and are led through prompts like “Order Now” or “Find a Store” to transact with the nearest store locations, following a conversion path that allows the brand to showcase product availability and even highly differentiated offers such as Maybelline’s makeup recycling stations. Store locators are being used by brands to create distinctive local search experiences that offer value over and above that of generic apps and directories.

Dustin Hayes is director of marketing at SOCi.