8 Essentials for a Modern Store Locator Experience

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With any multi-location business, your job is to help customers connect to the location best suited for their needs. A store locator helps make this customer-to-location connection possible and can be a helpful or painful part of the customer journey.

Whether you call it a store locator, dealer finder, location finder, or service locator, creating a modernized, convenient, and relevant experience is essential to support your customer seamlessly throughout their online experience.

What is a store locator?

A store locator, in very basic terms, is a map with location pins or markers with basic contact information about each location, like address and business hours. A store locator helps customers find the store nearest to them, ideally guiding them to get directions or navigating them to the products and services available at that location.

Why is a store locator important?

Now it’s true that if you have a solid business listings plan, consistent Google Business Profiles that are frequently updated with relevant content and routing visitors to an accurate local page, a majority of your traffic will flow to your local pages through means other than a locator.

But what’s also true is that a majority of visitors on the local level still visit your brand’s store or dealer locator to find the location nearest them and access their store page. Visitors access these pages through the corporate site, a brand’s site directly, or via a brand plus locations  search. What these visitors are usually met with is a bad experience, one that is often a neglected part of the overall customer website experience, and the customer leaves.

So, how do you create a great store locator customer experience?

With a few key essentials, your location finder can add to your online experience, making it easy for customers to find what they are looking for and where they want to go.

1. Geolocation support

Geolocation prompt from location finder

With geolocation support, users can provide you with their location to create a more seamless user experience. If your customers opt-in, they expect a contextual, straightforward user experience — so, make sure it’s just that.

Prompting for their location saves them time, and likely they’re searching for you on their phone when they’re doing 10 other things. This is a must-have, as users expect it. Don’t require them to search manually if they don’t want to.

2. Full branded mobile user experience with map interface

App-like store finder user interface

Customers expect app-level user experience when navigating a store locator — one that is in line with your brand visually (same fonts, colors, styles) and easy to use, not just a widget.

Plus, customers can be quite visual when deciding if a location is near them or which one they would like to visit. Customers usually don’t have context unless they know the exact location they want.  Having a list of locations in a directory style view is not helpful; however, maps with landmarks can help them decide. Provide them with an interactive interface to navigate based on where they are or their knowledge of the area.

3. Avoid complex search and impractical filtering fields

If visitors are not using geolocation, they likely have an idea of what they would like to search — so, make it easy for them. Avoid zip code-only searches or multiple drop-down selections before they can see results. The more complex the inputs are before they see your locations, the more they drop off. Think about what visitors are typing into your locator: typically they are thinking of map landmarks, city, or even store/area names. So, work with your visitors:

To be clear, filters aren’t all bad. In fact, if you provide different services or products at each location or you have different types of locations (ATM versus a branch for banks), adding filtering so the visitor can find the right location for them can be extremely useful. Just be mindful of all those extra clicks.

4. Friendly location names

Customer friendly location names used in location finder

In addition to the addresses, it’s helpful to have a unique, friendly location name to help guide the user to the appropriate location. This is especially needed for dense concentrations of locations. Use the neighborhood, mall or shopping center, or landmark.

5. Accurate hours of operation

Location hours of operation displayed in a store locator

If your business relies on customers walking in the door, then you should provide accurate hours of operation information. This includes if the location is open or closed (yes, and even closed permanently). There’s nothing worse than driving to a location for something you need just to learn that it’s closed. Little hiccups like this contribute to reduced customer trust.

6. Relevant CTAs unique to your business

Store locator example with online ordering

After your customers find their desired location, make it easy for them to take the next step. In addition to the typical directions link, be sure to link the local page and include a click to call for immediate assistance. Include any other relevant call to action which might be essential for your customer at this point in time — for example, a link to schedule/book appointments directly at that location, links to online menus, or links to order products/services.

7. Never give zero results without a next step

If visitors search for a location, and nothing is close by, give them another option. Visitors get frustrated and drop off if a locator is not giving them what they want. Allow them to view a full list of locations in a city-state organization. Potentially add coming-soon locations if you are a growing franchise. Provide them with an alternative so they can understand.

8. Track searches and on-page experience

Now even if you’ve completed all of the above, monitoring what is happening within your store locator will help you continuously improve the user experience. Track what visitors are searching for, did they use geolocation, how many locations were returned, how far was the nearest location, did they immediately click to call.

Use this information to continually improve your finder experience. As an added benefit, use this information to give you hints of new geographic markets where you should open up shop.

Now start modernizing…

With a few key essentials, creating an integrated store locator can be simple and can even enhance your customer’s experience with your brand. At worst, you can lose your customer’s trust or miss out on that next booking or purchase. 

Keep your visitor’s user experience in mind. Reduce the clicks or taps it takes to act. Provide friendly, up to date information about your business. Present relevant actions to learn more. Track, iterate, and grow your multi-location brand.

Rachel Berman is the Chief Operations Officer at DevHub.