Google Can Now Tell People When Your Business Is Too Busy to Visit
By the power of advanced traffic data wizardry, Google can now predict when your business will likely experience the most foot traffic, and, of course, it’s telling people about it, too.
The all-knowing Internet giant says the new Google Search capability, which debuted yesterday, is designed to help consumers avoid long lines and wait times.
Now, when people search Google for certain businesses, an interactive “popular times” bar graph appears below the establishment’s description, address, hours, menu (if applicable) and phone number. No real-time customer counts are provided -- that would just be creepy. Instead, searchers are given a glimpse of businesses’ busiest times for each day of the week. Well, approximately.
Inquiring minds -- ideally future paying customers -- can swipe through the graphs to time their visits with OCD-like precision. The simple blue charts are based on millions of Google Maps users’ mobile “My Location” data, those convenient little GPS crumbs that Google gobbles up in its thirst to know where you’re heading and how fast.
“Much like how we compute traffic data based on the anonymized aggregated movement of people on the road, we are able to determine relatively how busy a place is,” a Google spokesperson told Entrepreneur.
Search listings for “millions of places and businesses around the world” -- including stores, restaurants, brick-and-mortar shops and you name it -- already boast the new feature, with more presumably on the way soon. Perhaps even your business, that is if its Google “location card” listing doesn’t already sport the juicy data. Hurry up and check. (You, and everyone else, can find out via Android Google Search app or via your smartphone web browser.)
Who knows, maybe you can leverage the data to get a better grasp on your peak foot traffic days and times. Being savvy to what Google estimates are your “popular times” could come in handy for tweaking your product stock, staffing schedule, hours of operation and/or timing sales and other promotions. The update could particularly be a boon to your businesses if you don’t have a budget for fancy (and typically expensive) retail analytics tools that track the number of people who stroll in and out of your location and when.
As for potential downsides, we wonder if this new feature won’t send customers flocking to your competition during your peak hours. We hope not.
Kim Lachance Shandrow is the former West Coast editor at Entrepreneur.com. Previously, she was a commerce columnist at Los Angeles CityBeat, a news producer at MSNBC and KNBC in Los Angeles and a frequent contributor to the Los Angeles Times. She has also written for Government Technology magazine, LA Yoga magazine, the Lowell Sun newspaper, HealthCentral.com, PsychCentral.com and the former U.S. Surgeon General, Dr. C. Everett Coop. Follow her on Twitter at @Lashandrow. You can also follow her on Facebook here.