The folks at Starbucks just made it a whole lot easier to find their stores. They've added some new ways to find their stores as well as filters to find different types of stores and ammenities at those stores using Virtual Earth version 6 no less than 2 weeks after the release. Okay, they had some inside help....:-) 

Go to Starbucks.com and click "Our Stores" to see the new functionality powered by both Virtual Earth and MapPoint Web Service. You'll notice 3 tabs across the top - Find Store, Find Route and Find Event. Since Find Store is the default, we'll start there. You can put in a whole host of information in this text box - anything from full addresses to just a postal code. You can also put landmarks like "Space Needle" or "Grand Canyon" - there actually is a Starbucks in a nearby Safeway. :) There are filters for limiting your search. You simply need only check the boxes for the filters you want in place. For example, if you only want drive-thru locations (awesome when on the road or a screaming child in the back seat) you check the box adjacent to the "Drive Through Window" box and only drive-thru locations will appear. I think my favorite filter is the "Coming Soon" checkbox. I love to know where Starbucks is going to be next so I can plan to buy a house nearby or open a complimentary restaurant like P.B Loco...but, I digress. The categories include Wireless Hotspot Available, Drive Through Window, Oven-Warmed Food, iTunes Wi-Fi Music Store, Airport Stores, and Coming Soon. Once your search is complete you get a map of pushpins that appear on the map in different colors. Ie. Starbucks stores show up green and Coming Soon stores appear in gray. For the Coming Soon stores it would be nice to see when they plan to open, but maybe they have reasons for not stating. Once you see the map you can check the box for events! Now we're getting additional interesting layer of information for events at Starbucks such. I couldn't find any in Seattle, Dallas or Los Angeles but I'm assuming they're out there somewhere. In order to not bore you, I'm gonna bullet point list it from here:

  • Scrollable map refresh - if you move the map with locations the map will refresh automatically with new locations based on the viewport
  • They are using Virtual Earth v6, so they get the sleek, new default navigation
  • As results are posted to the map you get an easy to use results navigation panel on the left. This gives you easy access to your data layers or back to a quick search pane.
  • "Route Canal" - we termed this back at Vicinity. It's basically a way to find locations within a mile of a given route. If you've ever made the drive from San Francisco to San Diego you know how critical coffee is along the way, so this feature shows you all the locations along your route. Just enter a origin (start) and destination (to) and the appropriate amenities (drive thru is critical for this feature) and off you go.
  • Find Events - Along with the store locations, you can find events taking place anywhere on the map, between a specific set of dates and of a specific type.
  • Mouse Over - the popups on the mouseovers have information key capabilities. Hover over a location and you'll see address and phone number information, plus you can drive to or from that location, send the address and phone information to your mobile phone, or invite a friend to meet you at the respective Starbucks. This was part of their summer "Let's Meet at Starbucks" campaign.
  • More Details - in the popup you can see more details about the location including the address, phone number and the amenities. Plus, you can see a detailed map with the ability to drive to and from the location, send the info to your mobile phone, invite your friends to meet you there or see if there are any upcoming events.
  • Virtual Earth capabilities - I like that SBUX kept the default navigation so you can see all of the native capabilities like aerial, hybrid and bird's eye imagery and 3D. Perhaps someday you can walk into a virtual 3D starbucks and order a latte, then go pick it up in real life. Wow, I'm a geek.

In any case, the new Starbucks locator is certainly a showcase of mapping functionality for others to follow. Now, I need some diesel.

CP