Home Why Google Is Giving 3D Photo Tours of Local Businesses

Why Google Is Giving 3D Photo Tours of Local Businesses

Google just launched a new layout for search results about places. To the right of the text search results, there’s now a panel that shows a map view along with photos and business details. Certain businesses will have the little pegman on their images. Clicking him will take you into a 360-degree interior view of the place.

Other places in the search results have a “>>” symbol that instantly opens the same preview. The new layout and 3D features will come to restaurants, landmarks, museums, hotels and more. The features will roll out in more than 40 languages over the next few weeks. It’s a flashy feature, but Google has its reasons.

Mapping the outside world is one thing, but mapping inside is new territory. Google isn’t alone in the effort. Bing Maps reached for some low-hanging fruit this summer and mapped the inside of malls. There are startups like Meridian dedicated to bringing location services inside. But only the company that brought us Street View has made it to the point of instant photo tours of business interiors from inside normal Web search results.

Local businesses are a vital new part of Google’s strategy, so much so that Google is taking charge of how businesses are listed, asking their owners for forgiveness rather than permission. Local businesses are the reason for some of Google high-profile acquisitions like Zagat, a restaurant review publisher. Between Zagat reviews and 3D photo tours on Google, what’s Yelp to do?

Google is also pushing hard to make local business content mobile. Its new GoMo marketing campaign announced today pushes businesses to mobilize their websites. What would you do if you were browsing on your phone for a place to eat, searched Google, clicked through to a place and found that its website looked horrendous on your phone? Google has found that, 61% of the time, you won’t return to that site ever again.

How Does Google Monetize It?

All these scenarios are important to Google because they represent valuable local advertising space. Google has rearranged its whole AdWords program to encourage mobile content, and it has put the +1 button on mobile ads.

But Google needs more out of local businesses to justify these fancy new user experiences. One concerted effort to monetize local business is in daily deals. Its acquisition of The Dealmap, a local offers aggregator, will help Google motivate consumers by putting bargains on the map. The new confederacy of daily deals providers on Google Offers will widen its coupon inventory. The other key component is Google Wallet, the nascent NFC mobile payment system. This will close Google’s loop on helping users find, choose and pay local businesses.

There are huge adoption hurdles to getting NFC into every phone and every store, and daily deals are a pretty grim business for providers and local businesses alike. But Google can afford to experiment; no one can compete with photo tours of real-world places. Yet.

Do you like these new photo tours, or is it just eye candy?

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