In the ever-expanding universe of Google, a new service the Internet company recently rolled out could prove another useful marketing tool to business.
Google Business Photos allows companies to include virtual tours of their facilities through Google Maps and other platforms.
“Business owners who participate in the program benefit by gaining more visibility and exposure on Google Maps,” said Kevin J. Trainor, assistant professor of marketing at Northern Arizona University. “The content business owners provide (i.e., their virtual tours) ultimately makes Google Maps more valuable than other mapping applications. As evidenced by the recent troubles facing Apple’s attempt at rolling out a mapping application, Google Maps is highly regarded by users.”
About 100,000 businesses in the U.S. have signed onto the service, according to Google.
Several Tucson companies are participating, including Barrio Brewing and Gentle Ben’s breweries.
“People can go online and see what they’re getting,” said Dennis Arnold, owner of Barrio Brewing Co., 800 E. 16th St., and Gentle Ben’s Brewing Company, 865 E. University Blvd.
The virtual tours give users a 360-degree view of the interior of a business. The tours can be found on various Google products, such as street view maps.
On Google Maps, a participating business is signified by a yellow dot over its address that’s seen when a user drags the yellow man icon to a map point to open street views.
From there, directional arrows point to the business where the user can continue inside and explore.
Photos and virtual tours also can be found when conducting a standard Google Web search. In the middle column next to the search results appears a profile and similar search results.
If a company has Google Business Photos and a virtual tour, users can access it there.
“I like it because a lot of people can get a feel for the place,” Arnold said.
He said he thinks it’s particularly helpful to businesses like restaurants where the aesthetics of the interior space are important to customers, whether it’s to determine if the décor is to their liking or if the place is large enough to meet their needs for a private party or special event.
Businesses have to go through a Google-certified “trusted photographer.” In Tucson, David Krzyzanowski of DizzyPix is one of the photographers who shoots photos for the virtual tours.
“I would think this will become the norm,” Krzyzanowski said as he set up his camera at Lazydays RV, 3200 E. Irvington Road, where he recently took photos for a virtual tour.
Krzyzanowski said he’s required to do a series of external photos of a business that can link with the Google street view images. From there, he walks the camera into the establishment, stopping every four feet to take a series of 360-degree images.
Only Google-trusted photographers can take the photos for a business because the photographer also has access to the Google site to upload the photos.
Bob Grady, general manager of Lazydays, said he decided to use Google Business Photos as a way to expand the dealership’s online presence and to display what he said is the location’s unique features.
“There is no other RV dealership that is like this,” Grady said. “We’re a destination.”
Grady said much of the state’s RV business has shifted north, to the Mesa area, particularly since Beaudry RV closed. Part of what the company wants to do is bring that business back to Tucson. Google Business Photos is a part of that plan.
The new Google service also could prove useful to marketing and advertising companies.
Even as products like business photos appear as if they could eliminate the need for professional assistance in marketing a company, Trainor said that might not be the case.
“I don’t believe that this service will diminish the role played by agencies and instead it may actually increase demand for some,” he said. “Google’s continual innovations seem to create opportunities for those who can quickly figure it all out and simplify it for their customers. The constant change is just too much for most business owners to get their heads around and keep up with – after all, they have enough to worry about.”
Next Generation is a monthly feature of Inside Tucson Business profiling Southern Arizonans on the cutting edge of developing their ideas. If you’ve got an idea or someone you think should be profiled, contact reporter Patrick McNamara at email@example.com or (520) 295-4259.