Queuing, it’s what the British are meant to do very well. In fact, we have the reputation for being the best nation at queuing in the world. But what if that gene skipped us, and actually we hate to queue for our morning coffee, or our after-work swim?
Well it seems that Google has that covered, with the rollout of a new feature for mobile browsers, which provides details on when a given business is most busy.
The information is available directly via Google search (on the Google app on Android or the Chrome and Safari apps on iOS), when users search for a local business by name. Within the first page search results for that establishment, the user can click on the title to see not only the address and contact details, but now also a chart of its most ‘popular times’ throughout the week.
Details of the sorts of businesses this feature will appear for are currently a bit sketchy, but we’re excited by the possibilities. Google has said it is only going to appear for places where users are curious about how busy it gets. Train stations could be a great use of the feature, letting people know when best to avoid long ticket queues and packed platforms. Banks are another vertical where the feature could be very successful, as that has to be one of the dullest places to queue.
Parents with young children would unquestionably like the feature to apply to soft play centres, for which it could become a tool for survival…particularly during school holidays, when kids will be charging around like monkeys on Red Bull. Knowing the times in the week when the numbers reach hellish proportions could be information that’s worth its weight in gold!
How is Google collecting the data?
This is where it gets really interesting, if you consider the possibilities, and future implications.
Google has told other news outlets that the information is based on anonymous and aggregated visits to places from Google users who have opted-in to storing location data. In the past, it has revealed how it’s able to collect data from users of its Google Maps application in order to anonymously inform its search results of things like traffic data and conditions. It is not confirmed whether driving direction enquiries are the main data source for this feature, but it seems likely, and through location specific mobile data Google can also learn whether a user has driven to the requested location.
Additionally Google is able to use GPS-backed data to gain insight into the business space, which may also be contributing information to the ‘popular times’ feature. Further data could also be coming from Android Pay, Google Wallet and browser histories.
Can businesses opt out of this feature?
In one word, no! Google is not offering local businesses the chance to remove this ‘popular times’ data from their search results, nor is it offering establishments a chance to opt out of this feature. Google says it’s information which is valuable for customers in deciding when and where to go.
For local businesses, the update is a notable one, as this new data could be helpful in giving an improved understanding of their own traffic patterns and busiest hours. Additionally, now that this data has surfaced, there is the potential it will be fed into local search rankings, or allow Google to alter rankings during certain times of the day.
Thinking creatively around how businesses could make use of this data, it could be helpful for competitor research. Knowing when the competition gets most busy could be a time to advertise offers and incentives, as a way to poach customers averse to queuing!
What are your thoughts on this feature? Do you see ways in which it could be helpful for your business? Please let us know your thoughts below…