The evolution of Google Street View Trusted

The marketing sector can be a complicated place as new marketing tools and techniques are launched, almost on a weekly basis. Powered by The Drum Network, this regular column invites The Drum Network's members to demystify the marketing trade and offer expert insight and opinion on what is happening in the marketing industry today that can help your business tomorrow.

Farooq Bhatti is a local search specialist at Caliber Interactive.

When Google Maps was introduced in 2005, it redefined our concept of navigation with its ease of use and accessibility. It came to the scene with such a force that it quickly dominated the market. The Street View feature, introduced in 2007, dropped us at the doorstep of any house or business we wanted to visit. A further evolution brought about by what is known as Street View Trusted, has now given us a view inside businesses that have opted for the service.

Street View Trusted is the third incarnation of a service that started in May 2011 as ‘Google Business Photos’. Initially, Google sent out its own photographers to assorted businesses to capture the 360 degree panoramic imagery. However, after grappling with how to expand the concept, Google began training and certifying independent photographers and this gave birth to the Google ‘Trusted Photographer’ program.

In March 2014, Google rebranded the service as ‘Google Business View’. The new catchy name was simple and to the point. As the name implied, it literally let people view inside businesses. However, there was a critical aspect that in hindsight seems to have been overlooked. Google was simultaneously running a program called 'Google Views'. Unlike Business View, which was a service run by professional photographers, Google Views was designed for amateur panosphere photographers. Photography could be taken on a simple Android smartphone and the quality standards varied extensively. While only Business View panoramas appeared across all of the main Google platforms such as Google Search, Knowledge Graph and Google Plus, having two similar sounding products with vastly different levels of quality did not sit well.

After extensive internal consultations and changes to its Google+ platform, in August 2015, Google announced the name change from Business View to Street View Trusted. The change placed all their virtual tour platforms on one consolidated platform. This change makes it easier for photographers and agencies to sell the service as most clients are already familiar with the Street View name and platform. The “Trusted” suffix to the service clearly distinguishes it from hobbyist created virtual tours where quality is not monitored.

Street View Trusted and its role in modern marketing

Businesses such as hotels, resorts, and restaurants, spend significant resources on perfecting their décor, ambience and layout. Street View Trusted tours provide the ideal platform to showcase unique differentiation factors to clients from within Google search results. Case studies conducted on the platform showed that the virtual tour increased footfall, improved click through rates, and led to higher rates of client engagement.

With the use of Google Maps’ mobile app and Google Cardboard lenses, the Street View Tours can be converted into fully immersive 3D tours of the outside and the inside. Brands such as Destinology and Thomas Cook have used this to great success within the travel industry. Clients are provided with the simple to use Google Cardboard box and can then explore the resort or destination they would like to travel to with the aid of their mobile phone. It brings the “try before you buy” concept to a whole new industry.

Emirates Airlines was one of the first airlines to adopt this platform when it created a Street View Trusted tour of its new A380 airplane. Customers could explore the state of the art airplane from the comfort of their home. This was replicated by other companies via virtual tours of cruise lines and high speed trains. It is a far more enticing experience then glossy brochures or static photographs.

Street View Trusted is becoming mainstream as local businesses of all sizes and types adapt the platform. With the increase of mobile internet users, when users click on ‘what’s nearby’ in Google Maps, businesses with Street View Trusted are listed with the option to ‘look inside’. It is easy to see how this technology can be classified among the most effective for local internet marketing.

Is Street View Trusted the last iteration of this service or are further amendments and developments likely in the future? If history is any guide, this service will evolve and grow. As far as what it will look like then, your guess is as good as mine.

Farooq Bhatti is a local search specialist at Caliber Interactive. You can follow him on Twitter.

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