There was much excitement about the idea that Google might be taking images of store interiors (informally called “Store View” at SEL) to add to its map-based imagery. EveryScape has been doing this for some time in the US, although not with the same resources and approach that Google could and might take.
I was told, however, by Brad Petersen at Matchcraft that this offering is already pretty well established in a couple of places in Europe. He sent me a link to Amsterdam-based directory publisher De Telefoongids, which already offers an inside the store view:
The orange door icons indicate you can go inside the store (zoom in, pan, etc):
Pretty interesting. It suggests that we’ll eventually see this type of photography become “mainstream” throughout Europe and in the US. However, as Brad reminded me, the stores in Europe tend to be more concentrated in shopping areas than in the US where there is more geographic distribution.
This is not “real time inventory” but it still can be very useful to see the types of things in a store. (Inventory or brands carried information could always be made available on these pages as a link or layer.)
I was in a local “high end” kitchen and housewares store buying a gift for my wife’s birthday and I was thinking about how the store would market itself. Traditional online marketing methods are unlikely to be successful in my view. In reality the store relies most on foot traffic. It’s not going to be top-of-mind (especially because it’s costlier) for most shoppers, who would probably go to a Macy’s or a Target based on brand equity and marketing muscle. It’s the classic David and Goliath scenario.
I thought that what might really help this particular store would be to get their inventory or brands into some database so they’d come up when people were searching locally for specialty items. But images like those above would be even more helpful because people would be able to see the types of items and unique products they carry.
You say: “But they can put those images on their website or upload them to Google’s LBC.” Yes, perhaps that’s true, but this sort of presentation above — enabling people to “window shop” on a map — is much more compelling.