December 21, 2010, 3:18 PM

A study rates retailers’ online store locators as mediocre

That’s because they fail to support a shopper’s goal after he finds the nearby store.

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While just about every cross-channel retailer has a store locator on its web site, most are not user-friendly, according to a new Temkin Group report that evaluated five large retailers—Home Depot Inc., Kroger Co., Target Corp., Walgreen Co. and Wal-Mart Stores Inc.—and five banks.

The report, “Online store locators miss a key part of the experience,” examined what Temkins considers the six key elements of a store locator’s user experience:

• Start: How easy it is for a consumer to find the store locator link?

 

 

•Locate: Is key information, such as store hours, included on the results page?

• Interact: Do large maps above the results require consumers to scroll down before they can see the information for the nearest location?

• Complete: Is crucial information, such as the actual store hours, missing?

• End: How well does the site support the consumer’s goal? For instance, can consumers easily text, e-mail or click on a printer-friendly version of store information or directions?

• Brand coherence: Do search results share visual consistency with the rest of the site?

The report found that most of the analyzed sites were mediocre because they had cluttered or poorly organized results pages, lacked important information such as distance and store hours, and, in the case of Target, No. 21 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide, made it hard to find the store locator on its home page.

Each retailer failed on the End criteria because they did not satisfy a user who wants to send the information she finds to her mobile phone.

“Companies need to think through the entire flow of customer needs,” says Bruce Temkin, managing partner. “Finding a store location online is only the first part of a larger goal for a customer.”

Overall, Kroger.com had the highest score for an e-commerce site, followed by Walgreens.com, No. No. 86 in the Top 500 Guide, Walmart.com, No. 6, HomeDepot.com, No. 39, and Target.com. One reason for Kroger’s score is its prominent “Find Stores” link, which is displayed with a small map of the United States.

Temkin says other retailers could also borrow from a helpful feature on Walmart.com. When a consumer hovers over the “Store Finder” link on its home page, a full-featured search box drops down on the page, which eliminates the need to click and wait for another page to load. 

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