Google Street View moves inside
Google has announced a development in its Street View service that will allow businesses to add interior photographs to their Google Places listings.
The new feature is entirely voluntary and will give companies the chance to show off their premises to curious potential consumers.
Currently, people searching via Google see Places listings for businesses, where appropriate, at the top of the search engine's results pages - and can click through to the Maps section to see where they are sited. They can then use the Google Street View tool to see an eye-level 360 degree view of the location.
Google's interior photos, dubbed 'Business View' or 'Business Photos' by industry commentators, will allow search engine users to see participating businesses in much closer detail by moving inside to see the actual shop or office, thus creating a more dynamic Google Places experience.
Businesses can upload their own photos
The scheme will initially operate on a trial basis in selected cities, including London and Paris. Other locations will include cities in the US, Australia, Japan and New Zealand.
Restaurants, hotels, shops and gyms will be featured, but branches of big chains, hospitals and law offices are excluded during the trial. It has not been confirmed whether this will change.
"Many retailers are increasing their online presence and use of technological innovations, so this is a development some businesses will no doubt consider with interest," said Sarah Cordey, spokeswoman for the British Retail Consortium, quoted by the BBC.
Businesses can upload their own photos, but Google will also arrange photoshoots involving wide-angle and fish-eye lenses, to create a similar style to its existing Street View tool.
Mark Baker, online marketing manager at theEword, said: "Obviously, the business owners who take pride in their aesthetic appearances will be very excited.
"First impressions really do count and web users value immediacy, so being able to check out a business before visiting it is likely to be popular - and on a practical level, it may also reassure those planning to visit because they'll know when they find the right place."
He added: "I do wonder, though, how we will tell when the photos are out of date, as Street View often displays older images that no longer reflect what is there."