Retail: Simple Tips to Improve Your Store Locator Experience

October 4, 2013
think about when and where

Retailers spend a lot of money trying to drive customers into their stores and yet they are neglecting something that is simple to fix. Let me share a little secret; business hours are as important as location.

Last night, I called my husband before he left work to ask him to buy a bottle of wine for supper. Jerome asked me which liquor store was still open? So, I checked online.

I had to open a link for each store that was on my husband’s route to find the answer — there were many. Strangely, the people who created the SAQ’s Web site imagined that most customers will want to know the branch’s fax number. I don’t know about you, but if I use a store locator is because I plan to go to a store.

saq store locator

I asked myself if it is because the SAQ is a government run business that they are not customer-centric? So I decided to put to the test the store locator of major fashion chains and department stores. I assumed that these retailers would know better. I was wrong! I am chocked that most failed on delivering a crucial information that any customer needs to know before heading to a store.

h&m store locator

H&M has a handy filtering system per collection but their store locator only emphasizes how to get to each store. I again need to look at each store details to find out when they are open. At least, H&M does a lot better than most. For example, Zara, Gap or Banana Republic don’t even mention business hours on the Web site.

The funny thing is that it is easy to fix the opening hours problem. Some designers might argue space constraints for not listing the business hours on the store locator page. But there are no excuses for not providing users with a simple hint. What I propose here would easily fit into any design. You could:

  • flag in green the locations that are open at this time;
  • identify stores with longer business hours; or
  • highlight specific information:
    • open at 8 AM on weekdays
    • you can shop until 10 PM today
    • open from 9 AM to 7 PM today.

My Ideal Store Locator Tool Would Have…

The option to search or filter the store listing by opening hours, by the amount of time he would took me to get there based on my preferred transportation mode (not just distances) and by collection.

Store locator tools should use my location to provide me with an enhanced experience. They should prioritize the stores that are still open at the time of my search and show me the ones that I can reach in less time followed by the others near me. I expect the bells and whistles of Google Maps to be fully integrated into the retailer’s site. I want the information that I need to decide when and where to go.

I basically want to know if a store is currently open,if not, when it will open, its closing time and to get the full experience of Google Maps without leaving the retailer’s site.

My best advice is to put yourself in the shoes of your time-crunched customers. In my book, it starts by factoring in the sense of urgency, the product(s) that they are looking for, the fact that many shoppers will check to find the nearest store from their smart phone and to show considerations for the customers that plan to shop after work or when their kids are in bed.

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