Infocommerce noted with interest the announcement by the Google Places program of a new free service whereby Google will send a professional photographer to a small retailers to take interior photos that will appear on their Google business profiles. This is in addition to the well-known Google Street View program which has been photographing the exterior of businesses nationwide for several years now. Google Places also allows over four million businesses that have claimed their listings to add hours of operation, sales, events and coupons. It’s all part of an ambitious effort to create national yellow pages that will leave legacy yellow pages in the dust, especially since these business profiles are physical web pages that also appear in the main Google search index and in the opinion of some, often suspiciously often float to the top of search results pages.
This is enormously threatening to the big yellow pages publishers. With enough traction, Google could start to charge a modest amount for these listings and in my view could end up the nation’s largest (and perhaps only) yellow pages publisher. That’s all very interesting and significant, but I think there is an even more fascinating evolution afoot. A whole host of companies are trying to put small business inventory data online (look at companies like milo.com and of course Google has a toe in the water here as well). Hook real-time inventory to a retailer’s website, add e-commerce functionality, and presto whammo, that little retailer starts to sport many of the advantages of purely online retailers. The local business arguably holds an edge though, because it can make a local delivery faster than a pure online retailer, and customers can even pick up items if they prefer. Source: InfoCommerce Group is a boutique consultancy, conference producer and research firm, serving producers of business information content. www.infocommercegroup.com/