Generating New Customers with Google Business View
Clean, comfortable shops are a stark contrast to the grimy floors, cramped waiting areas and loud surroundings that come with the traditional perception of the auto service industry. For those looking to proudly show off their plush environs and professional repair facilities, a new feature from Google provides shops a low-cost way to give prospective customers a free tour—while also improving search engine rankings.
It’s called Business View, and provides Web visitors with a first-person, 360-degree view inside businesses. Whether the intent is just showing the front counter and customer waiting area, or giving a full tour that includes the shop floor and bathroom, it’s a new, affordable feature that’s catching on with companies of all stripes.
With the ability to click to advance the camera’s perspective and pan around from side to side, the interactive technology is based on Google’s Street View technology that’s part of the California tech giant’s ubiquitous mapping software.
At Pickering’s Auto, a two-location repair business in Colorado, President Randy Pickering first heard of Business View through a photographer who’s a member of his local BNI professional networking group.
After hearing about the new service, Pickering was excited to show off his two shops to prospective customers, along with the search engine optimization benefits it would provide both websites by coupling with other Google online properties.
“They could actually experience our business … without having to walk in our front doors to see what we were like,” he says. “We believe we’re different than many repair shops, and … this gave us another opportunity for the customers to experience us.”
How to Get Started
Adding Business View to your Google+ page or website is a straightforward, three-step process that requires minimal effort from the business owner.
The first step is selecting a nearby Google Trusted Photographer who is paid (according to the individual photographer’s rate) to come into your business with the same type of panoramic camera that’s used atop the company’s Street View Cars. Search for “Google Business View” for a state-based listing of approved photographers and agencies.
As this is a new technology—first available in the U.S. in 2013—the availability of Trusted Photographers depends on your location. All of Alaska has only two photogs, both in Anchorage, but New York State has more than 25.
After connecting with a photographer, the next step is scheduling a time to shoot the panoramic photographs. Prior to the shoot, businesses are encouraged to clean and organize their facilities to put their best faces forward, as they will create countless first impressions to online visitors for years to come.
The final step is waiting. It typically takes a few weeks for Business View to go live on the full suite of Google locations: the search engine, Business Pages, Google Maps and your Google+ page.
HTML or Google Maps API code is provided when it’s ready, allowing do-it-yourself webmasters to import the code to add the Business View module onto any type of Web page. Businesses that contract out their Web functions can forward that code on to their webmaster, a charge that may be bundled into recurring monthly fees depending on the provider.
After setting up an appointment with local photographer Mark Mortensen, who first told Pickering about the new service, Pickering and his staff worked to remove clutter, while notifying customers that a photographer would be shooting the store, and that their faces would be blurred out in the final product.
Through a promotional deal with Mortensen, Pickering was able to complete both locations for $500 each, and the shop’s Web developer added the coding into both websites without any additional charge beyond the standard monthly rate.
He added that the cost was a nominal price to pay for the website improvements, ability to present the business to potential customers and for the SEO benefits.
“If you’re proud of the way you display to your customer, then I think any shop should do this,” Pickering says. “If you don’t have an attractive and inviting business, then it may not be the fit for you.”
Jack Crawley, owner of Fisk Automotive in Fullerton, Calif., heard about Business View through his shop’s Web provider, Zenergy Works. Zenergy took care of the entire process, and charged Crawley $125 per photo position. All told, the final cost was less than $900 to photograph the three-year-old general service facility.
More than just a visual tour, Fisk’s Business View includes pop-up buttons that provide additional items such as contact information, available services and information about the value of preventive maintenance, all as tour-goers virtually walk through the facility.
“We’ve definitely had comments [like], ‘Hey, I really like that,’ so people see it and use it,” Crawley says. “It’s just like when you use Google Maps and want to look down the street.”
New Tech, New Concerns
Kiley Fasano, production manager at Kukui, a California-based web marketing firm specializing in automotive repair shops, describes Business View as a “super cool” technology that could improve lead-to-conversion rates by giving potential customers an initial look inside the building.
Fasano says that Business View complements Kukui’s traditional focus on prominently displaying three key pieces of information for business websites: branding, location and phone number.
“The potential benefits would be showing a place where [customers] feel invited, where they have a place to sit and read a magazine and have a bottle of water,” she says. “Most of the time you’re not going to wait there unless there’s an inviting area, so that would be one thing potential customers would want to check out.”
The concern, Fasano adds, comes with security. There’s a possibility that sensitive information may be visible in the photographs, including locations of files or even information displayed on computer screens.
“We haven’t heard of anything like that happening,” Fasano says. “If you have an incredible shop that’s gorgeous and has a beautiful customer waiting area and you want to show it off, sure, why not? But we … still have a lot of research to do on it to have a full stance.”
Looking forward, she adds that, from Kukui’s own research, the SEO benefits of Business View are currently unknown, but that it’s likely the technology will become ubiquitous due to its interactivity and appeal to business owners eager to show off the ambiance of their facilities.