Guess what? People like to shop online (or by cellphone) and pick up in-store. We all love research to back up our theories, so here goes:
"Jupiter Research states that 51% of consumers are researching on the Internet and then completing their purchases offline; online research influences more than $400 billion of in-store sales and projections call for that sum to surpass $1.1 trillion by 2012.
A Gartner Group study reveals 68% of consumers are comparing prices online before shopping in a physical store and 58% locate items online before going to a store to purchase; only 13% say the Internet has not improved their in-store shopping experience."
The e-Tailing Group is offering a report of the Buy Online/Pick-Up In-Store Experience. The study sent mystery shoppers to 23 retail stores who offer in-store pickup to report on their customer experience. I won't rehash the findings of the study here, I'll leave you to getting those goodies yourself. Today I want to zoom in on what you might think is a minor detail: the Store Locator page. I hit up a few of the top 100-some etailers of 2006 and I offer you the following tips:
1. People usually hate typing and filling in forms -- it slows us down. Help us out by offering the option to search by zipcode or city/state, and make it obvious we have a choice. Or bypass forms altogether.
Bed Bath and Bodyworks
It sounds like you have to enter all information, but the 2 submit buttons indicate you have a choice. Most people won't get that, so just stick a little "or" between 'em like:
Circuit City rocks it with a very clear form. Bonus points for using the asterisk convention to indicate required fields and saving us more thinking.
Hallmark likes to make things look difficult -- you don't reeeally have to enter your whole address, just a city and zipcode. Since I'm positive "90210" is in California, I was able to test it, but found the store results could be improved by showing all locations on one page rather than showing 4 pages with 4 stores per page.
The Gap explains that you don't have to fill in all the fields but the more info you divulge the better your results. But Gap assumes that people read instructions (more often than not we DON'T as that requires extra thinking). What I love is you can check multiple boxes to find specific types of Gap stores. Nice touch.
Hey, who even needs city? Footlocker's search-like-a-guy cuts right to the chase and works great.
My favorite has to be BestBuy because my right hand never had to abandon mouse. 2 clicks and I had the info I wanted sans-keyboard.
2. If you're using a cutesy icon like Circuit City, provide a link in the footer for those of us who will check there first. It took me about a minute to find the link. There is sort-of a link in the footer -- the "24/24 Pickup Guarantee" which is cool, but not the same.
3. Don't get fancy with your link text. Eddie Bauer's "Store Nearest You" is easily overlooked by a seasoned web shopper scanning a page for "Store Locator." "Find a Store" is a common variant, but the extra word is superfluous. Use the convention.
Now, violating any of these tips isn't going to make the user experience that terrible...but optimal ecommerce web design errs on the side of easy-for-users. These are my user-experience observations and are not "rules." As with anything, you'll need to design your store locator according to what makes most sense for your situation.