Store Locator – The Most Underutilized Asset In Online Retail

Want a quick way to increase your online sales?  If you’re an omni-channel retailer, there’s probably something simple you can do right away and may see a 10% bump as a result.

Your store locator probably gets in the neighborhood of a quarter of your site traffic.  And nearly half of these store locator visitors bounce without exploring your site any further.  What a shame.

When a customer uses your store locator to look up a store, it’s a strong indicator of intent.

They’re not looking up your location for the fun of it, they’re doing it because they’ve already researched the product or service and are further down the funnel, ready to take action.  They’ve half made up their mind to buy from you and now they just need to get your address or your phone number so they can drive to your store.  Traditional retail folks know that once you’re physically in the store the conversion rate is very high, typically 30% or more, which baffles the minds of strictly online guys, and is a phenomenon worthy of its own research.  So that’s great but if you’re reading this you’re the e-commerce guy whose job is to grow the online business, at least to the point where it isn’t so damn pathetic as a percentage of the overall business’s revenue.

Here’s an easy score – put a call to action on your store locator pages which encourages customers to at least look at the online store before closing their browsers.  Do you have a sale running with a promo code on your store?  Convenience features like reserving items or pick up in store?  Highlight this from the store locator with a link to online shopping!  If you have any sort of service or consultation component to your business, by all means accept online appointment scheduling.  Customers browsing the store locator are primed and ready to convert.  Do some simple things to get more of them to convert online where you can track it (and before they change their minds).  These are typically some of the easiest changes you’ll make as we’re mainly talking about some creative and a hyperlink, and I’ll bet you can see results that outperform that last big feature you spent 4 months of development on.

So if your store locator does nothing more than give store location and contact information, for heavens sake do something to encourage them to maybe shop online before just closing their browsers.  You’ll be glad you did.  And while you’re at it, if you’re not making bi-weekly payments on your mortgage, sign up for that today too.  Seriously, you can take years off that thing and you get paid every two weeks anyway.  There, that’s two solid pieces of financial advice.  You’re welcome.

Desktop Geolocation – How valuable is ‘sort of’ knowing a users location?

I think Geolocation services are hugely important.  Since we’re all now used to the idea that our smartphones know our exact location and can immediately serve up content based on that, it almost seems prehistoric to have to enter your ZIP code into a web form for a website on your desktop computer to know where you are and serve content based on your location.  If my little phone can know exactly where I am, why can’t my big expensive desktop?

So sites are clearly doing geolocation so you don’t have to enter ZIP code.  But they’re doing a fairly bad job of it.  Desktop based geolocation services have 99.9% accuracy within a 25 mile radius.  While certain providers will have different accuracy guarantees and there are different data sources out there, all of them share the 25 mile radius limit.  Think about what that means for a moment.  The desktop knows where you within a 25 mile radius.  Not very accurate.  This is how we serve up “Results from Pleasantville” when you are really 20 miles away from Pleasantville.  Better than having no idea where you’re at but not terribly useful.  There are at least a couple important implications of this to consider.

Implications on Advertising by Geography

If you’ve ever tried to limit your AdWords, display, or other advertising to a geographical location, if you’re trying to limit your reach to areas where your conversion rate is highest or only to areas where you have brick and mortar locations, consider that it’s only going to be accurate within 25 miles.  So you can forget about being accurate down to the city in smaller cities.  You’re accepting that you’re going to allow in some traffic that is not actually in the geographical area you think you are targeting, making it less efficient than it should be.

Implications on Store Location Services

Many e-commerce sites from brick and mortar chains are challenged by having different pricing in different stores across the country.  In most cases before these sites can display a retail price they need to know your location, involving the user to have to enter their ZIP code and select their store, a few extra clicks and user interactions just to be able to see a price.  This can hurt engagement rate and conversion rate.  So a growing trend is to use geolocation services to automatically select the store closest to the user, and present this allowing the user to confirm the location or pick another so prices can immediately be shown.  This is smart but has drawbacks for retailers for lots of stores within a given area.  Remembering that desktop services are only accurate within 25 miles, it is likely that the “wrong” store may be automatically chosen.  While the UI can prompt the user to confirm or pick another closer store, users don’t know about the 25 mile limitation and may assume their desktop computer is as good at knowing their location as their cell phone is and assume that must in fact be the closest store to their home and not bother checking.  This concern can be mitigated with messaging however it is a key concept to keep in mind when employing this tactic.

Will the future be brighter?

Given the way desktop geolocation works to find your location, it is unlikely that the service will improve much unless desktop computers start shipping with new hardware with a cell signal so that location can be triangulated.  In the meantime, more and more Internet use is going to mobile devices including tablets.