Will Google Maps bring a new dimension to the in-store experience?

Discussion
Sources: Google
Apr 09, 2021

Google Maps’ Live View function has long helped tourists and locals navigate metropolitan streets and explore restaurants and other sites in view of the company’s roving cameras. Now, with an artificial intelligence (AI) boost, Google is bringing the technology indoors.

Google is on track to bring over 100 AI-powered improvements to Google Maps to provide “the most accurate, up-to-date information about the world, exactly when you need it,” according to a company blog.

Live View, based on scans of tens of billions of Street View images, is known for providing individuals walking city streets with insights into nearby restaurants, gas stations, grocery stores, hotels and pharmacies. For restaurants, insights include ratings, prices and whether they accept reservations and are “open now.”

AI advances will now enable access to the precise altitude and placement of objects inside a building to help navigate indoor spaces, such as airports, transit stations and malls.

“If you’re catching a plane or train, Live View can help you find the nearest elevator and escalators, your gate, platform, baggage claim, check-in counters, ticket office, restrooms, ATMs and more. Arrows and accompanying directions will point you the right way,” wrote Google. “And if you need to pick something up from the mall, use Live View to see what floor a store is on and how to get there so you can get in and out in a snap.”

In stores, Google Map can also be used to avoid lengthy grocery lines, book appointments and for contactless payments.

Other advances include:

  • Notifications on Google Maps will be sent to buy online, pickup in-store customers when it’s time to leave to pick up an item. The shoppers’ ETA is continuously updated, based on location and traffic to prioritize when the item should be brought out to the shoppers’ car. Google tested the function as part of a pilot with Fred Meyer. 
  • New routing capabilities that enable drivers to lower fuel consumption based on factors like road incline and traffic congestion.

Google Maps also promises to link to other Google technologies. Albertsons Cos. just announced a partnership with Google that includes “shoppable maps with dynamic hyperlocal features,” as well as AI-powered conversational commerce and predictive grocery list building.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: How might Google Maps or similar navigation technologies transform the in-store shopping experience? What functions do you think will prove the greatest value?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
Braintrust
"Shoppable maps will have a big impact on the CX by reducing pre-shopping friction and decreasing the number of touchpoints prior to purchase."
"Okay — I’ll admit it. I am now officially too old to see the value in this technology. The whole world is becoming a soul-less vending machine!"
"There are two things that are being optimized out of retail. Inventory and humans. What do they have in common? They hit the bottom line."

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16 Comments on "Will Google Maps bring a new dimension to the in-store experience?"


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David Naumann
BrainTrust
David Naumann
Marketing Strategy Lead - Retail, Travel & Distribution, Verizon
5 months 15 days ago

Adding the inside spaces of public areas like airports and malls to Google Maps is a great added value for consumers. Finding the quickest path to a store, restaurant or plane gate is something most people will find useful, especially if it is a mall or airport that they are not familiar with. Taking this a step further, if Amazon could partner with retail chains, they could add visual product locations on shelves in stores and the the most direct path to a product or a sequential path to all the products on the shopping list.

Karen Wong
BrainTrust

We work with Google for local inventory feeds to drive in-store foot traffic and shoppable maps will have a big impact on the CX by reducing pre-shopping friction and decreasing the number of touchpoints prior to purchase. My main questions are: how easy will this be for shoppers to use and for merchants to implement? I’ll be first in line to integrate this to our existing platform.

Gene Detroyer
BrainTrust

It seems to me implementation in grocery stores would be difficult. The products on the shelves are changing regularly. It can tell me where the cookies are, but will it be able to tell me where the Golden Oreos are, if they are there at all? Say they were available two weeks ago, but the retailer dropped the SKU last week? Or what happens when the retailer changes his shelf set?

Your thought, please.

Karen Wong
BrainTrust

Good point. It’s exactly these types of use cases that most systems/integrations can’t handle. We currently send direct product feeds to Google Merchant Center with real-time stock levels, pricing, description, etc. Our stock availability is based on transaction movement across all channels. It wouldn’t be a stretch to add location down to the aisle/shelf level but how many stores are able to track products to the shelf level without IoT? We were involved in a pilot involving overhead RFID previously so I can see aisle being doable in the near-term in a store with frequent merchandising changes provided the aisles are large enough for accuracy. We’re not yet at a place where we can combine both location-based and transaction-based data for greater accuracy, but that’s the goal for sure.

Rick Watson
BrainTrust

There are a few reasons that Instacart has pretty good guesses for what’s there — order activity, its personal shoppers verification, and ML algorithms to predict demand and sell-through. Google would have to similarly invest to address this market more fully.

Jeff Sward
BrainTrust

I know how much I enjoy the location feature while shopping in Home Depot. I visit the store needing some kind of gizmo or widget, and if I visit the website ahead of time it will tell me what aisle and what bin I will find it in. So just thinking about how Google Maps can aid in micro-mapping is an intriguing thought. It will definitely be a time saver for the customer. It could also reduce browsing time, and I wonder if that will always serve the retailer well. When in doubt, reduce friction. But is browsing friction?

Ian Percy
BrainTrust

Okay — I’ll admit it. I am now officially too old to see the value in this technology. The whole world is becoming a soul-less vending machine!

Sure it would be helpful in finding one’s way around LAX or a general neighborhood. But to locate items in a store? I have another innovation to suggest — it’s called SERVICE. Employees who actually help shoppers in other words. There are early adopters like ACE Hardware, Trader Joe’s, etc. and it seems to work for them. Hopefully it will catch on.

Rick Watson
BrainTrust

There are two things that are being optimized out of retail. Inventory and humans. What they have in common? They hit the bottom line. 😉

It’s the investor-ization of everything.

Dave Bruno
BrainTrust

In theory, this is great new functionality designed to help shoppers shop. In practice, though, I wonder just how many people will want another reason to walk around a store with their heads buried in their phones. We haven’t seen too many in-store mobile features hit the zeitgeist, and “Live Inside” feels to me a little like visual search: really practical and useful technology that has never gained real traction in retail.

Bindu Gupta
BrainTrust

Using Google maps for in-store navigation and item placement could be useful when customers want a contactless experience or if they are unable to find a sales associate to help them find what they need. A lot depends upon how easy it would be for the retailers to implement and for the customers to navigate accurately.

Rick Watson
BrainTrust

I’ve long thought that Google Maps has the best chance of any app to become what in Asia is known as a super-app.

There are a whole host of context-specific applications based on what’s happening around you. Commerce/retail is firmly in that equation. Customer service, browsing, fulfillment and delivery are all part of this value chain. Most mobile searches are inherently local — about 46 percent. This is the key to understanding this technology and what’s coming behind it.

Ryan Mathews
BrainTrust

I live in a loft that Google Maps can’t find. It consistently sends delivery people to another city. When Google can find where I live I’ll consider whether or not there is an in-store application.

Richard J. George, Ph.D.
BrainTrust

An interesting concept that has significant potential in an era of instant knowledge and gratification. Obviously, there are design and implementation challenges. However, the investment required may be somewhat offset by fewer in-store employees (if that’s even possible). Seems to be at odds with the concept of in-store browsing and discovery. However, for some customers it may be perceived as a differential advantage.

Venky Ramesh
BrainTrust

Out of personal experience, I can say if Google can integrate the shopping list to store preferences and deals and help in navigating the aisles in the shortest possible time, that would be a fantastic use case.

Craig Sundstrom
Guest

People wandering around crowded aisles staring down at their phones: what could go wrong? I’m a little unclear on what this function provides (in the context of “the in-store shopping experience”): does it tell me where they moved the pickles, or if they’re out of bread (again!)? That would be great, but of course the data would need to be updated constantly to be of use. The examples given impress me as being like a lot of what tech offers: a high “gee whiz” factor, which tells more about how clever the developers are, than how practical something is. I guess I’d have to actually see it in use to judge.

Casey Craig
BrainTrust

People want a more customized experience than ever before, whether that’s online or in-store shopping. Tech like Live View for in-store shopping lets customers navigate stores at their own pace and eliminates a barrier to purchase: finding the item you’re looking for quickly. There may also be valuable data from these sorts of technologies that brands can use to refine their retail strategies. For example, how does its location in a store impact the rate of purchase for a certain item? Are there physical navigation tools that would help customers more easily find what they’re looking for? Are there high-traffic paths where you can place items you want to move off shelves for greater exposure to customers?

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"Shoppable maps will have a big impact on the CX by reducing pre-shopping friction and decreasing the number of touchpoints prior to purchase."
"Okay — I’ll admit it. I am now officially too old to see the value in this technology. The whole world is becoming a soul-less vending machine!"
"There are two things that are being optimized out of retail. Inventory and humans. What do they have in common? They hit the bottom line."

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