The Cost of Bad Location Data: More than $1,000 in This Case

A number of years ago Andrew Shotland and I tried to calculate the cost of bad location data (name, address, phone number) across the industry. We came up with a big number. It was based on a mix of consumer survey data, a set of assumptions and a formula about the frequency of incorrect listings in search results.

Though it used real data points it was still somewhat abstract. However, this  weekend I had a direct experience of bad location data that translated into $1,000 (possibly more) — in lost sales for Macy’s.

There are a number of Macy’s stores in my area. However only a few of them carry furniture. The retailer is having a big sale on furniture right now. I need a new couch (after 18 years) and I’m also in the market for two living room chairs.

I was looking through Macy’s direct mail catalog on Friday. I identified and saved several chairs and couches I wanted to see in person in the Macy’s mobile app. Ready to buy, on Saturday I looked up “Macy’s Furniture Store Locations” on Google. The closest location to where I live was Walnut Creek, a San Francisco Bay Area suburb.

Macy's mobile search result

Historically there hasn’t been a furniture store in that Macy’s location; my wife reminded me of this. However the store was recently remodeled and, I assumed, probably expanded to include furniture.

Trusting this search result — I should have called to confirm — I drove there in relatively heavy Saturday afternoon traffic, parked and went to look at the items I was interested in. When I entered the store I saw that the directory didn’t include a floor with furniture.

I then looked for a Macy’s employee to ask. It took me longer than it should have. Eventually I asked a random person behind a counter. That individual called someone else over who told me the closest Macy’s furniture store was about 15 miles away. I showed him the search result and he was confused.

Of course I then said that this error should be communicated to Macy’s corporate and he agreed. (I’m sure he won’t report the problem.) I left the store frustrated but didn’t have time to go to the other location. It’s not clear when I will be able to get out there again. The sale will have ended the next time I can get to a Macy’s furniture location and so I probably won’t make the trip.

I was fully prepared to buy multiple items, based on my earlier review of the catalog, provided I liked them in person. So this is a lost sale for Macy’s — probably worth at least $1,000. I was likely to have spent $500 (on one chair) and could easily have spent more than $1,500 on a couch and a chair.

The question in my mind is: why isn’t the Macy’s SEO team on top of this?

One Response to “The Cost of Bad Location Data: More than $1,000 in This Case”

  1. Greg, $1000 is a big number for a local business itself. As per the Ovum Research Report, poor data quality costs businesses at least 30% of their revenue. Data cleansing is the only way to survive.

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