Google Street View, brought indoors

When Google Inc. first brought Street View to its Maps service in 2007, it was a novelty. By now, most people are familiar with Google Street View, where users can go to Google Maps and see a panoramic view of the addresses they’re searching for. And really, it’s one of the first features we go look for when we want to find a new landmark.

Still, Street View has mostly been limited to outdoor locations – but now, some retailers are now taking the feature inside.

In November 2013, panoramic photos of the interior of Toronto’s Yorkdale Shopping Centre went live under its Google Maps entry. Known as Google Business Photos, these panoramic, indoor shots made Yorkdale the first and largest North American mall to have its entire space fully captured indoors on Google Maps.

To create these images, a Google-certified photographer took photos using a fisheye lens, creating a circular image called a “pano.” Each pano had to be within Google’s specifications, according to size and camera angle, making the project technically challenging. The photographer took four days to do the photoshoot inside Yorkdale, finally producing 214 panos that Google pieced together to create the final product – a panoramic, 360-degree look around the mall.

But Yorkdale isn’t the only business to get a photoshoot. Wisdek Corp., the marketing company that created the photos, is a Google Partner and helps its customers with social media, search engine optimization, and other digital marketing services – and many of its customers are small to mid-sized businesses (SMBs), says Courtney Dale, Wisdek’s communications director.

“Google Business Photos is actually great for small business. Any business that is looking to have people come to their space,” she says, adding a lot of Wisdek’s customers are retailers and restaurants.

“It does legitimize a business a little more, because any business can have a website, and that website can look amazing if they happen to be talented at making websites. But they may still be operating out of somebody’s basement, and you never really know … [SMBs] can say, we are really this good.”

In fact, some of Wisdek’s earliest customers have been SMBs, Dale adds. One of the reasons for that may be that Google hasn’t really been actively promoting its Indoor Maps service. In a blog post, it announced the service in a blog post as early as 2011.

However, it may just be that bigger corporations are still a little wary of throwing open their doors and letting people have a 360-degree look-around inside, Dale says.

“It’s really interesting. The small to mid-sized businesses have been fairly active in getting their Google Business photoshoots done. I think it has to do with fewer levels of administration and approval,” Dale says, adding SMBs also want to be more involved with social media and to make their businesses more discoverable.

“The little guys are really sensitive to reviews and it makes a big impact on their business, so having those profiles more developed has been … a priority for them.”

And in the case of Yorkdale, the mall wanted to upgrade and make itself a more futuristic location, something that would appeal to its customers, Dale adds. Plus, it does provide some added convenience for shoppers – if a customer is looking for a particular store, he or she can map it on Google from home and then be directed to the store’s nearest mall entrance.

The marketing firm is currently in talks with about 40 other Canadian shopping malls to bring in Google Business Photos, she says.

For SMBs, pricing is based on the physical size of the business’ location, with Wisdek setting it at about $500 for the first 1,000 square feet photographed. For every 1,000 square feet after that, Wisdek charges another $100. There are also options to add optimization for Google+.

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Candice So
Candice So
Candice is a graduate of Carleton University and has worked in several newsrooms as a freelance reporter and intern, including the Edmonton Journal, the Ottawa Citizen, the Globe and Mail, and the Windsor Star. Candice is a dog lover and a coffee drinker.

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