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Argos: Combining the best of in-store and online shopping with Google Maps Platform

About Argos

With nearly 29 million store customers and more than a billion online visitors a year, Argos is one of the UK’s retail giants. Its mission is to deliver outstanding convenience, choice, and value.

Industries: Retail & Consumer Goods
Location: United Kingdom

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About Web Geo Services

Web Geo Services is a Google Maps Premier Partner that helps more than 450 companies to optimize their deployment and use of Google Maps Platform for high impact and added value.

Argos uses Google Maps Platform to inform online and in-store customers where stock is available in their local area for maximum convenience and efficiency when shopping.

Google Cloud results

  • Reduces “bounce rate” by 12%, retaining millions of customers a year with intuitive, easy-to-use Google Maps
  • Enables customers to browse and reserve items to pick up elsewhere, for added convenience

Enables 40,000+ additional product collections in six months

When a customer shops at Argos, they might not know it, but they have set in motion a chain of events centered entirely around them. Founded in 1973, Argos prides itself on getting customers what they want, how they want it, whether in-store or home delivery. That mission has made the company a household name in the UK for generations, stocking a huge variety of household goods from clothes to electrical items to household appliances.

Woman using kiosk in store

With its network of brick-and-mortar catalog stores, Sainsbury’s “store-in-stores” and Collection Points, as well its online offerings, Argos has been able to thrive during the expansion of the ecommerce industry over the last ten years to become one of the UK’s most famous retail brands, generating more than two-thirds of revenue from online. Today, the company sells more than 89,000 products from around 2,000 stores across the country as well as online, generating an annual revenue of approximately £4 billion. “Everything we do is about customer convenience and the personal touch,” says Rob Sargent, Digital Product Lead at Argos. “When our customers choose home delivery, they can set a specific time. Or if it’s easier for them to come into one of our stores or collection points, they can do that.”

“The most important thing for us was to deliver a better customer experience, and we knew Google Maps Platform could support that. Our engineers also found it easier to work with, and the costs were lower and more predictable. It was a win-win-win for us.”

Rob Sargent, Senior Lead Digital Product Manager, Argos

In 2016, Argos joined the Sainsbury’s group of retail brands and dramatically expanded the number of collection points for customers. The move also exposed Argos to new technologies and ways of working that could help optimize workflows and improve customer experience. Shortly after joining Sainsbury’s, Argos began looking to replace its mapping solution with the one its new sister brands were using: Google Maps Platform.

“The most important thing for us was to deliver a better customer experience, and we knew Google Maps Platform could support that,” says Rob. “Our engineers also found it easier to work with, and the costs were lower and more predictable. It was a win-win-win for us.”

Making retail work for the customer wherever they are

Convenience is at the heart of Argos’ customer experience, and a heavy emphasis on being local to customers has helped Argos navigate the rough waters of an increasingly competitive retail market. “We don’t have a single centralized distribution center like other retailers. We spread our collection stock out among all our locations, so we can be much more responsive to our customers’ needs,” says Rob.

Argos’ website sees a billion visits every year, while the company also serves 29 million people a year in its stores. Customers can use a store locator and interactive map on the website, or use a stock-checking feature on the product pages to find the nearest store with the items they want, to pick up when they want. For example, a customer could be browsing for a new pair of shoes but only be able to pick up during their lunch hour at work.

But Argos was having problems with its existing mapping platform. The company found that the map product itself was putting some customers off the website. “They weren’t very familiar with the layout and how it worked,” says Rob. “We’d find they often left the site. Probably to look up the stores manually!” What’s more, the opaque billing structure led to high costs at unexpected times, while bugs and complications with the implementation meant that engineers were doing more than they needed to, simply to keep the platform running.

As a result of joining the Sainsbury’s group, Argos saw its new partners using Google Maps Platform to map their own store locations, and that’s when it saw the need, and opportunity, for change. Here was a solution that was simpler, more cost-effective and better for customers than the one they had. It was clear to Rob and his team that the company could benefit from Google Maps Platform.

“Being able to control virtually every aspect of Google Maps Platform from the console has been a huge benefit for me. If I need to restrict access to the API for example, or very quickly add compute power, I can do that at the click of a button.”

Rob Sargent, Senior Lead Digital Product Manager, Argos

Argos teamed up with Google Maps Premier Partner Web Geo Services, who helped Argos to align its contract with the existing one with the other companies in the Sainsbury’s Group. It also advised on the best possible implementation for the circumstances. After spending a little time to project costs and convince the procurement team that the new solution would actually save money, Argos migrated to Google Maps Platform in May 2019.

The migration itself took very little time. “We had a single engineer move everything over in about a week,” explains Rob. “It speaks to the simplicity of the platform, the clarity of the documentation and the advice we got from Web Geo Services.”

Argos implemented its mapping solution in three distinct stages. The first was a simple like-for-like replacement of the existing map product on its website. The Maps JavaScript API allows customers to quickly and easily find the locations they need, with minimal management overhead for Rob and his team.

“Being able to control virtually every aspect of Google Maps Platform from the console has been a huge benefit for me,” says Rob. “If I need to restrict access to the API for example, or very quickly add compute power, I can do that at the click of a button.”

Web Geo Services suggested the second stage of the implementation, which was to use the Maps Static API to display maps as images in certain instances, when customers would not need to interact with them. This keeps costs down and performance high without disrupting user experience.

The third and latest stage of the implementation has come as Argos rolled out new ways of combining online shopping with in-store convenience. The company had an existing Click and Collect feature, which allows customers to browse and pay for items online and pick them up in the store of their choice, as long as stock is available there. A similar Place and Reserve feature lets them reserve items in store without having to pay online before collection. Within the stores themselves, Argos added a new feature powered by the dynamic Maps Javascript API, that allows customers to browse and reserve items over in-store catalogs but have them delivered to different locations for collection at a more convenient time.

As well as the Maps APIs, Argos also makes occasional use of the Places API as a backup for its existing geocoding solution. “We have a legacy product that we use for geocoding, but if it doesn’t have the answer, we can always rely on the Places API,” says Rob.

“More than four million customers a year continue their journey on our website thanks to Google Maps Platform. They seem to really like the interface and that helps us deliver the right stock to the right locations and make sure they leave satisfied.”

Rob Sargent, Senior Lead Digital Product Manager, Argos

Keeping customers in the loop with Google Maps Platform

Google Maps Platform has had a dramatic effect on Argos’ customers. Shortly after the migration, the company examined “bounce” rates from its maps, that is the rate at which customers would come to the map and then “bounce off,” or leave the website. After moving to Google Maps Platform, Argos reduced its bounce rates by 12%.

“More than four million customers a year continue their journey on our website, thanks to Google Maps Platform,” says Rob. “They seem to really like the interface and that helps us deliver the right stock to the right locations and make sure they leave satisfied.”

In the six months since implementing the new in-store Place and Reserve feature across its locations, Argos has increased collections by more than 40,000 products. Most collections represent a new order that would otherwise have been delayed or frustrated because of a lack of local availability. As Rob explains, “If customers can’t choose a home delivery slot for whatever reason, with our solution they can find a suitable collection point, order their item, pick it up as quickly as possible, and take it home to enjoy.”

The next task for Argos is to highlight its entire network of affiliated collection points on its customer-facing maps. As a member of the Sainsbury’s Group, Argos is able to use not just its own branches as pick-up points but other Sainsbury’s stores or locations such as small local stores as well. It is also working to implement the Directions API with its store locator and stock-checker, to provide customers with specific directions to their nearest collection point, instead of just the address.

For Rob, Google Maps Platform is an effective way of making purchases and collections as convenient and efficient as possible for customers. “It’s been quicker and cheaper than we expected, and it’s been a lot simpler than we expected,” he says. “It’s all about helping customers realize that there are more Argos stores and collection points than they thought, and they’re closer than they thought.”

Tell us your challenge. We're here to help.

Contact us

About Argos

With nearly 29 million store customers and more than a billion online visitors a year, Argos is one of the UK’s retail giants. Its mission is to deliver outstanding convenience, choice, and value.

Industries: Retail & Consumer Goods
Location: United Kingdom

About Web Geo Services

Web Geo Services is a Google Maps Premier Partner that helps more than 450 companies to optimize their deployment and use of Google Maps Platform for high impact and added value.