Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Local Google Search change: what does it mean for small business?

Searching on Google now makes it possible for users to see which times of the day are busiest at local businesses based on foot traffic, mobile search queries, PC searches and location data. The question becomes what does this mean for local businesses and how will it effect them?

Well, first of all it's kind of scary the amount and detail of data Google keeps track of, isn't it? It could serve to draw in more customers at off peak hours or it could, more likely, just shift peak hours. This could be an interesting social experiment, not that Google pays any attention to social consequences of their actions. They did propose the elimination of the space bar, after all. 

Anyway if you know when peak traffic hours are, a store manager can move staff to better manage the customers. Businesses should be aware of all this anyway. What is interesting here is now the customer knows. So, you're a customer who needs a light bulb right away. You search for light bulbs and find several places that have them and see some are crowded and some are not. What do you do? Do you go to the least crowded store or think well if no one is going to this store there must be something wrong with it. Do you choose the store that is not too crowded but not too empty? Do you go to one of the crowded stores because you think that all those folks must know something and it must be a very good store? What about when it's not something you need right away? Do you fall into old habits and go to the store you always frequent? Do you wait a bit because Google says it's crowded now? Does everybody else do the same thing? We could find out a lot about people through this.

 Of course, it could drive patrons away. As Yogi Berra once said "nobody goes there anymore. it's too crowded" People want service and they want it now and they hate to wait, so they are naturally going to avoid crowded places and times.

You've all heard the term "Big Data". This is Big Data in action, and the information can be very useful to businesses of any size. The question becomes how does a business get hold of that data that Google collects specifically about them for analysis. I'm assuming that Google is keeping all this to themselves. But knowing what is bought and when and when a store is busiest can be of tremendous use to a store in terms of stock, staffing and number of checkout lanes to open., for example. 

 The other thing businesses should be aware of is that this could be used as a marketing focus. Come to our store we are never crowded, which of course will make the store crowded. Come to our store, we have added staff to serve you in peak hours. Come to our store, lots of people do and they all can't be wrong.

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