3 Great Store Locators from Big Brands

Adam DuVander
Apr. 27 2009, 01:45AM EDT

Every company with more than about a dozen locations needs some way for customers to find the nearest store. Most of these features are showing their age, with tiny, non-interactive maps. Here are three store locators that shine by using a JavaScript mapping API, custom location markers and a little ingenuity.

Ace store locator

Ace Hardware's store locator takes the typing out of store locating. It guesses the user's city by IP address lookup and automatically shows the stores within 30 miles. You can refine the search by typing your zip code or even street address. Even better, there's a store features filter, so you can only see places that sell propane, for example.

It uses Google Maps and has a custom, tabbed info window with store info and hours. The only downside is that whenever you click a marker, the map shifts way to the side. On the other hand, the store info is also highlighted in the right column.

Cold Stone store locator

Mmm, ice cream! Cold Stone Creamery's locator starts with a view of the entire U.S. with 17 cluster icons. The site shows this magnifying glass marker whenever showing actual locations would be too crowded. In just five clicks, I can see all of their locations within my city.

Of course, you can type in a city name or zip code to zoom directly to your nearby creameries. Once there, the snazzy custom info window shows store info in one tab and hours in another, all on a zippy Google Map.

Target store locator

To get to Target's good store locator, and to avoid a decidedly Web 1.0 experience, you'll need to choose their Enhanced Maps. Then you'll see Target icons gracing a highly customized Virtual Earth map. The nearest five are numbered, making it easy to see the closest without giving up seeing other locations not too far away.

The info window might be the best part of this store locator. Clicking a marker doesn't force the map to slip. Instead, the info window opens in the direction where is has the most room to be displayed. It's missing easy access to store hours, but there is a form to quickly get directions.

Adam DuVander -- Adam heads developer relations at Orchestrate, a database-as-a-service company. He's spent many years analyzing APIs and developer tools. Previously he worked at SendGrid, edited ProgrammableWeb and wrote for Wired and Webmonkey. Adam is also the author of mapping API cookbook Map Scripting 101.

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[...] It’s not such a bad thing for Google that this also undercuts some of MapQuest’s enterprise offerings. If there’s another similar mashup in Google’s future, hopefully it will involve some good store locators. [...]