“Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded.”
That’s one of the most famous Yogi Berra quotes and while it sounds funny, a new Google search feature may turn this oxymoron into a reality.
For many small businesses, Google now gives searchers a visual picture to help them determine when the business is most packed by customers or clients. It presents this information in a series of bar graphs – one for each day of the week – that show the relative number of people present at the business.
For the business pictured in this iPhone screen capture, the feature was available in a Safari search, however, when I searched for the same business using a desktop computer running the Chrome browser, the “busy graph” wasn’t there. The same was true for several businesses I looked up. Google says it’s in the process of rolling out the feature, so I think it’s a safe bet to assume that it will be appearing in more and more places for more and more small businesses as we go along.
The data source
So far Google hasn’t been very talkative when it comes to how the search giant is gathering this data. If you press the “question mark” icon next to the graph, it merely says that the graph was compiled from “historical visits” to the location. Most observers feel they are mining the Google map data to determine the location of users. If so, this gives us another glimpse into how Google and many other app developers are taking up the mantle of Big Brother…hopefully in purely benevolent ways.
It will be interesting to see how people make use of this information. It might help some businesses even out demand throughout the day. For example, workout enthusiasts might adjust their gym hours or days after they consult the Google graphs.
Google might find additional ways to use its “historical visit” data. For example, it could rate all of a city’s seafood restaurants by number of users, or all restaurants in a given neighborhood. If it can determine when a user arrives at a restaurant and when the same user leaves, it might even be able to come up with a “speed of service” rating.
Check your small business
You should search for your small business on a mobile device, using a browser and using the Google app and see if the company is publishing a graph that highlights your busiest hours and days. This is information that you probably already know, but I’m sure it will be revealing to some small business owners. Perhaps it can help your planning and marketing.
The folks at Google are always coming up with new ways to use existing information, aren’t they? Maybe that’s the real lesson for small business owners…