Why a local SEO store locator matters for ecommerce and retailers

With the acceleration of digital growth and adoption in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, 2020 is going to be the year of customer and user experience for retailers – both online and offline. That should have been the case already, but complacency because of brand affinity and dominance meant that some brands have been quite lax about putting their customers first.

It will no longer be so easy. The ecommerce growth during lockdown restrictions means that consumers are more careful about their purchasing decisions. If your delivery time is too long (which it won’t if you have plotted the course through scenario planning), customers will go elsewhere. The list of factors that influence purchasing decisions is endless, but let’s focus on one that is often overlooked: a simple store locator.

By now you know that the loading speed of your ecommerce store – or your business website – is a big deal for a good user experience. From 2021, Google’s Core Web Vitals will play a much bigger role in search engine rankings.

But beyond fast loading, making your products or services as discoverable and accessible as possible can go a long way in boosting your SERP performance and profits.

What is a store locator?

Ten points if you guessed it is exactly what it says.  A store locator helps Google discover your stores, it helps both potential customers and search engines find you. It is simply an overlay, placed over a website's navigational elements, that directs the user to a specific store.

Imagine this user journey. A user will search for a product online and look for the nearest store selling that product. For example, if they wanted to buy shoes  - or a face mask if you want to keep it relevant -  and wanted to find a store near their home that sold them, they could type "Toronto shoe store" into the search engine of choice.

Now, whether you have a physical store that sells these or you do your business through ecommerce, the store locator structured data can help increase your visibility.

But the store locator is also helpful from a user experience point of view.

How a store locator can help increase your ecommerce user experience

With consumers doing more research before they action a purchase, you want to make the journey to that eventual action as swift as possible. When a potential customer is searching for a store that sells what they want, there is little point in them landing on a page that makes them jump through several additional hoops before reaching the information they wanted. Ain’t nobody got time for that.

A good user experience will increase your chances of improving your performance on the SERPs because it improves the user experience overall.

Google and other search engines strive to deliver the best results to its users (and your future customers). Ergo, optimizing your site for a good UX is worth the time and effort.  This is called a "holistic"SEO approach.

But there's another way store locators can improve the SEO rankings of your retail store: structured data. This is slightly more complicated and technical,  but simply put, structured metadata helps search engines to understand the location and other related information instantaneously. That helps them to integrate and present the search results with the details. The faster Google and other search engines do so, the better the website is likely to perform.

Marrying store locator SEO with your overall UX strategy

As important as this is, though, customer experience is about much more than just being found.

Good implementation of local SEO and store locator structured data can boost the footfall to your ecommerce shop – you know, like having prime spot in a shopping centre. But remember that this is just one piece of the ever-changing puzzle.

There is no point in the whole world landing in your shop if they then have to go on a Where Is Wally search to just get to the actual products or service you are offering. Nor do you want them to be assaulted by intrusive pop-ups demanding that they do this or sign up to that newsletter. Customers get enough of that nonsense through the advertising on news sites.

The core principles remain the same, though. Whatever you do online or offline, you need to add value for customers. And to know where you are still falling short, you need to keep tracking and monitoring the metrics that result in abandoned carts.

Your site can be the fastest loading in the west, but if there are problems with fulfilment, customers might still go elsewhere. According to CoreDNA, the three most common reasons customers abandon their carts due to fulfilment are:

  • Shipping costs.
  • Lengthy shipping times.
  • Lack of delivery options.

Aha. Remember what we were saying about a good customer experience? While things like site speed and local relevance matter to search engines, the engagement rates on your site will also play a part.

If you find that you are out-ranking your competitors and your local traffic is booming but your sales aren’t, the easiest way to combat it is by offering a click-and-collect option for local customers.

Yes, really – it is that simple.

For ecommerce-only retail stores, the click and collect option makes local SEO and store locator metadata even more relevant. And so, as with every good user journey and story, it all comes full circle. Get it right and that will become several full circles at the end of your profit statement.

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