BrainTrust Query: Google Street View to Take Consumers Inside of Stores
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 Those that do often have something that looks like a glorified yellow pages ad — static and outdated.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?