Image credit: 9to5 Google
Last month, Google allowed a handful of users to test a new augmented reality feature on Google Maps. They have labelled these users “Local Guides”, and are relying on their feedback to develop the feature so that it is ready for a mass audience.
Instead of being directed by a small blue dot, this new feature would allow users to hold up their phone and see a “real life” version of the street with arrows to show directions. The intention is to make navigation less confusing, particularly when you are in a new place.
As with any new venture by Google, it is likely that advertising will somehow be incorporated into the platform. With that in mind, today we’re asking: what is the marketing potential of Google Maps AR?
Google released the following statement on the introduction of AR technology to Maps: “We believe the ability to overlay directions over the real world environment offers an exciting and useful way to use the technology that already exists in your pocket.”
But how will it actually work?
First of all, the feature will be viewed alongside the typical map view. The map will appear at the bottom of your phone screen, while the AR street view will take up the top two-thirds of the screen.
One concern that Google must account for is the potential safety issues if people are walking around with screens in front of their faces. However, reports suggest that on-screen prompts will encourage people to put down their phone and pay attention to their surroundings. Hopefully, the feature will also include alerts for when users are crossing roads or approaching busy areas.
It is not yet certain when Google Maps AR will be available for wider use, and whether it will be released outside of the United States. However, given the far-reaching potential of the feature for both user experience and marketing opportunities, we think it’s quite likely that Google will roll this out as quickly and widely as possible.
Google already use Maps as an advertising platform, with paid results often emerging top of the list when you search for “tacos near me” or “local bars”. Augmented reality adds a whole new layer to the world of marketing, and several people have already picked up on the advertising potential that this new feature brings. It would be quite possible for Google to incorporate paid adverts into the AR street view, with suggestions popping up as you navigate the city or town you are in.
It is unclear exactly how they would do this while maintaining good user experience, but an article in Slash Gear suggested that Google Maps could incorporate a “tourism mode”, where users who are new to a particular area can get suggestions of things to do or places to go. This holds significant potential for local businesses who could pay to place an advert in the display. However Google chooses to do it, it’s highly likely that the AR feature will be monetized in some way.
The inclusion of adverts in the Google Maps AR mode could be a real win for high-street shops as it provides a way for them to engage in the digital side of marketing but still encourage consumers to physically visit their stores. While many have been fearing the death of the high street because of digital technologies, augmented reality in Google Maps might actually provide a means of promoting business in shops.
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