Retail: How to prepare for 2020 holiday shopping with Google Maps APIs part 1

The winter holiday season is by far the biggest time of the year for retailers. In fact, holiday shopping can account for up to 40% of annual sales. 

In a time where COVID-19 is still affecting almost every aspect of our lives, this leads to the question: 

How will retail - and especially brick-and-mortars - pull through the 2020 holiday season?

Studies and surveys have revealed that the majority of shoppers aren’t planning on changing how much they spend this holiday season compared to last year. This means retailers should expect similar or higher order volumes as previous years.

However, 66% of shoppers anticipate they will increase their online purchases during the 2020 holiday season and 60% of consumers plan to shop less in-store due to fear of COVID-19 exposure. Consumers still have an appetite for offline shopping though, so it looks like the 2020 holiday season will reward omnichannel retailers.

To help you improve your omnichannel experience, we have created a two part blog series with best practices to help you drive customers to your offline store and improve conversions on your online store.

In this first part of the series, we take a look at how you can drive customers to your store with a Store Locator Plus. 

Store Locator Plus: make it easy for customers to find and navigate to your store

You have probably heard about store locators. The little “where to find us” map located at the bottom of a website page or on the ‘contact us’ page. Store Locator Plus is a fine-tuned store locator. It is the optimal combination of APIs, recommended by Google, that retailers can use to allow customers to find their nearest stores. 

To help you drive customers to your offline store this holiday season, we have compiled a list of XX best practices that are essential for an enhanced store locator implementation.

Store Locator Plus consists of seven different elements:

  • Maps Javascript API
  • Places Autocomplete
  • Distance Matrix API
  • Directions API
  • Places Details
  • Street View
  • Static Map

Maps Javascript API: Drive people to your store

Having a map on your website that shows customers where to find your store is an absolute necessity. 

According to Google, the average online shopping journey has more than 140 touchpoints that can influence what people buy and who they buy it from. 

Why is this relevant for your offline store? 

Because shoppers searched online before 89% of in-store purchases last holiday season. In other words, a best of breed store locator can potentially be the touchpoint that drives consumers to your store instead of your competitor’s webshop.

With the Maps Javascript API you can embed maps within your application on each platform and place markers on top of the maps showing the location of any store or pickup points.

You can customize your maps to match the look and feel of your website with the online style editor. You can even customize markers by changing the default color or replacing them with a custom image, such as the logo of your brand. Thanks to Google’s new customization features, managing your styles across platforms and properties is a piece of cake. 

With info windows, or pop-up windows, you can provide customers with additional information like opening hours, phone number, or even photos. 

Place Autocomplete: Identify customers’ location

Another key component in your store locator is identifying the location of your customer. Knowing customers’ location allows you to show the stores closest to their location and give them turn-by-turn directions. 

Capturing the customer's address in a simple manner is not an easy task, especially on mobile devices. With Place Autocomplete your customers can type in their location, so you know exactly where they are. When a customer starts typing an address, autocomplete will fill in the rest with the type-ahead functionality they already know from the consumer version of Google Maps.

Distance Matrix API: Show the nearest stores

If there is one thing consumers love it is convenience -- and making informed decisions... 

No decision is too small for today’s consumer. They will spend hours researching every purchase, regardless of category or price. So, when they have made up their mind and found the item in stock in three of your stores, they want the rest of the journey to be easy or they will go somewhere else.

With the Distance Matrix API you allow customers to see both travel distance and time from their location to your stores. 

For instance, store A is closest to the consumer’s location in terms of straight distance. However, the straight distance is over an impassable river that the consumer needs to navigate around, making store A the farthest by travel time. Store B and C, on the other hand, are farther away in a straight distance, but closer in travel distance and time. In this case, it is most convenient for the consumer to visit store C.

Straight DIst

Directions API: Guide consumers to your store

Once you have shown customers the most convenient store from their location, you want to guide them to the store.

Chances are they already have a navigational app installed on their mobile device, but you want them to stay on your site. This way, they  won’t be distracted with other pages or see competitors on the map. By offering directions, you make sure they stay on your site until they have reached your store and completed the purchase.

Take Store Locator Plus to the next level

In the above, we have walked you through the key components of Store Locator Plus, but there are a few more things you can do to create a state of the art solution.

Street View

With Street View you allow customers to see the outside of your store. Street View comes in a static and a dynamic version. The static API enables customers to see your store from the street whereas the dynamic API lets them navigate the area. 

Street View really helps improve the user experience in especially two cases: 1) By letting customers see your store front you make it easier to find your store if they are not familiar with it or the neighborhood. 2) For people with disabilities it can be a great help to be able to explore the area before arriving -- is there an accessible parking space nearby, are there stairs, etc.

Places Details

With Places Details you can provide shoppers with the information they need before visiting one of your locations. This could be contact information, hours of operation, user ratings, user photos, and temporary closure status. This way, customers will know exactly what to expect when visiting your store.

If you need help getting started with Store Locator Plus, reach out to one of our experienced Google Maps experts.

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