If you weren’t aware, Google does indoor maps. If you were aware, you may not have known of the extent of the buildings that have been mapped already. You can view a list of over 10,000 buildings that have been mapped, here.
Users can upload their own building plans, as long as the building in question is public and there’s no problem with copyright or secrecy.
Uploading a building map of your stores, much like John Lewis and House of Fraser in the UK and Bloomingdale’s and Macy’s in the US, is probably a great idea. I’ve previously discussed the smartphone user journey, and indoor maps can slot right in to Google’s domination of that journey.
Even those who aren’t looking for anything specific on their phone, i.e. passing trade, might be tempted by maps. Certainly, if there is any pedestrian traffic outside of your stores, the extra detail may persuade potential customers to step inside, especially if there’s a marker on café, toilets, sportswear, perfume etc. (although the user has to be fully zoomed in to see the indoor map).
The initial benefit, of course, is that lost and tech-savvy customers (teens is likely to be a big demographic) can find their way to whichever desk or concession they need, once inside.
To some shoppers, the idea of needing a Google Map to find the toilets in a supermarket is a bit demoralising – surely we don’t need tech so far engrained in our lives? But, with malls, out of town shopping centres and bigger retail stores a trend that hasn’t abated, I think in retail there’s a good case for indoor maps.
And there are lots of good uses outside of retail, too. Let’s take a look at some of the best uses of indoor maps, taken from Google’s case studies.
The Mall of America in Minnesota has 4.2m sq ft of retail. Whatever you think about technology, finding stores and getting around is undoubtedly a challenge for shoppers and helping them a priority for management. Indoor Google Maps will surely see much expansion here.
WiFi signals can be used with indoor maps to locate users a lot more accurately than the cellular network. If marketers in retail want to start targeted mall visitors based on their location (see this brilliant Meat Pack example in this post) then WiFi is also imperative.
Schools and colleges
When was the last time you were lost in a building? It was probably a big public building and was probably a school or college. The ones with meaningless numbered rooms that seem to bear no relation to each other. Finding your way round is trial and error.
Google Maps seems like a good idea here, and indeed, Mission College in Santa Clara has implemented them.
Indoor Google Maps users to see the floor plans, get indoor walking directions, as well as switch between floors.
Users can opt-in to the My Location feature to turn on the “blue dot” icon locating their position on the map, to within a few meters.
Exhibition and convention centres
As one employee puts it at the Las Vegas Convention Center:
Finding your way is always an issue. We named the buildings North, Central, and South. [Visitors] get off of an international flight and have no idea what ‘north’ or ‘south’ is…It’s confusing.
Big spaces, disoriented international clientele. Of course they need some help.
As smartphones become ever more prolific and ever less alien across audiences, Indoor Google Maps will likely be used more and more.
When lost, looking down will be the new looking up.