BrainTrust Query: Google Street View to Take Consumers Inside of Stores

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Nov 17, 2011
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Through a special arrangement, presented here for discussion is a summary of a current article from the Retail Prophet Consulting blog.

If you use Google maps, then you’re probably familiar with Street View. As the name suggests, Street View allows users to virtually fly down to street level and have a 360-degree look around.

In April of this year Google began expanding the concept to include 360-degree photography of interior business spaces within Street View functionality. Now the program is officially rolling out in Australia, Japan, the U.S., and New Zealand and is focusing exclusively on small businesses, including restaurants, bars and retail stores. Businesses who want to have their location photographed by a “Google-trusted” photographer have to apply.

This is about more than pretty pictures.

According to Google, the idea behind shooting interiors is to provide potential customers with immersive imagery that would simply make them more comfortable with deciding to visit businesses. But I think there’s more to this than Google is admitting to at the moment.

The opportunity lies in the astounding fact that almost half of all small retailers in North America do not have a website of any kind. Those that do often have something that looks like a glorified yellow pages ad — static and outdated.

A fully-baked Places page now can contain reviews, maps, directions, telephone numbers, offers and an immersive 360-degree tour of the location and surrounding area. Add applications like Google Checkout and you have a fully functioning website with e-commerce capability, a quantum leap for the average small retailer. My bet would be that that’s exactly what Google wants business owners to begin to regard their Places page as — their website.

I’m seen, therefore I am.

Small retailers have never really excelled at e-commerce. The reason in most cases is quite simple. Many buyers feel that there’s a risk in ordering something from some hole-in-the-wall store they’ve never heard of. Without a well-known store brand name to rely on, most consumers aren’t willing to chance it. It’s been a perennial problem for small retailers.

Through Street View’s interior shots, would-be consumers can at least confirm that the store in fact exists, lending a significant sense of pre-buy confidence. If the store also happens to be well kept, stocked and merchandised (at least at the time it was photographed), it might just seal the deal.

Discussion Questions: What effect will Google Street View have on smaller retailers? Do you see a potential for Google Places, Google Street View and Google Checkout to jump-start e-commerce for smaller retailers?

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10 Comments on "BrainTrust Query: Google Street View to Take Consumers Inside of Stores"


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Liz Crawford
Guest
9 years 5 months ago

The interior view won’t be useful unless the shopper has a real reason to digitally navigate to that spot. Why are they “going there” online? I submit that the reason needs to be more compelling then to confirm that the store exists.

Here’s where that might be useful — looking at parking at arenas, or the layout of sporting or concert venues.

The smaller retailers would need to collaborate with Google maps to create compelling digital shelf sets and shopping environments, in order to meet a need that they need to identify.

Justin Time
Guest
9 years 5 months ago

The evolution of Google street view continues. Aimed with more information, these visuals will help both the store owner and the customer, the customer with less surprises when they shop the brick and mortar, and the retailer, an accurate view of his/her store.

The only problem I see is if the interior shots are updated on a regular basis.

Herb Sorensen
Guest
9 years 5 months ago
There is a proper distinction between pictures that “scan” the store and those that may scan the shelf. The first is the more natural view, similar to what a shopper sees when looking around and navigating stores, and the latter addresses the shelf and the shopper’s selection of merchandise. The application being discussed here seems to focus more on the first use, looking at the overall store. The second has been discussed here before, where Google is using more of a “StreetView” type camera to capture every single shelf, every single item. (See, for example, “in all directions at every 6 feet.” Both of these are directly relevant to e-commerce. The first is certainly relevant to small businesses and could, as noted, provide a better entry for them to e-commerce. At the same time, Google’s early shelf focus “StoreView” is/was more similar to efforts StoreEyes has made/is making. Both the scan the store, scan the shelf options look very iffy at this point in terms of any commercial success, although the people spending money doing… Read more »
Cathy Hotka
Guest
9 years 5 months ago

Creeptastic! Never underestimate Google’s ambition.

Craig Sundstrom
Guest
9 years 5 months ago

The concern I have would be with the timeliness of the information: I’m sure many/most of us have been browsing around in the aerial views of GM (or one of its competitors) and seen a building either magically appear or disappear as we change angles. The reason, of course, is the different shots were taken at different times, sometimes years apart…which of course raises the issue of how current are the shots (many times the answer is clearly “not very”). If consumers hope to “least confirm that the store in fact exists,” and the confirmation ends up false, they’re likely not to return.

Matt Schmitt
Guest
9 years 5 months ago

I suspect the forward-looking thoughts here will have more to do with augmented reality applications than just navigation.

Expect Google and developers to come up with applications that work with mobile devices and on PC browsers to overlay offers, product info, etc, when viewing a business interior. Could be a whole new precursor to pre-shopping the store, and potentially another way for brick and mortar retailers to bridge the digital divide and have another differentiator versus e-commerce shopping site that don’t have a “walk around and browse” feature.

M. Jericho Banks PhD
Guest
M. Jericho Banks PhD
9 years 5 months ago

Is Google challenging Go Daddy? If so, why not jump in with both feet and do a really good job?

Ralph Jacobson
Guest
9 years 5 months ago

Having received a text from my older son today that he saw a “Google Street View Camera Car” here in Los Angeles, I can tell you I do see value in providing this information.

I have personally utilized Google Street View to literally stroll down the street in SoHo to find new, interesting shops before I arrive for the annual NRF Conference.

This will be a great service and will help put small businesses on more of an even playing field with the larger retailers.

Jerry Gelsomino
Guest
9 years 5 months ago

The best news is that Google Maps is easy to use and relied upon as a search engine for finding places.

Shoppers will feel comfortable using this interface to browse stores as well. It could become the next ‘Yellow Pages.’

Mike Osorio
Guest
Mike Osorio
9 years 5 months ago

This is a really fantastic and usable technology and I can see the immediate value for small retailers as laid out in the article. I have many times used Google Earth to look at areas I will be visiting on a trip. I can see people checking out a small store before visiting and even doing online shopping using Google Checkout as that becomes ubiquitous. It is exciting to think of how this will accelerate global shopping in all types of unique retail establishments. Cool!

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