Google Places/Map/Local whatever you want to call it has gone through another major change. Now when you visit a places page you are taken to a Google+ Local page. Google appears to be pushing everything into the social realm so the question becomes – will this work for Google?
What is Google+ Local?
As I said above, it is a migration from Google Places to something with a whole lot more depth. That is because Google is starting to integrate some of its past purchases into the product. From Zagat (a business review site which was focused on restaurants) to Punchd – a mobile loyalty card system which uses QR codes, to Talkbin – a system which allows business customers the ability to send feedback and suggestions to business owners in real time.
So what this tells me is that Google is planning on turning Google+ Local into something more than an online version of the yellow pages. Something which is richer and more interactive.
Consider this scenario – someone in your town is searching for pizza and you happen to have a pizza restaurant. They may or may not know about your business, so they don’t know if they want to order from you. The person could start by reading reviews of your pizza (supplied by Zagat and other sources) to help them decide if they want to eat there.
If they are still unsure, then they are served a QR code via Punchd which gives them a discount on their first purchase. That is enough incentive to get them to buy from you.
So they then use the maps portion to give them driving or walking directions to your restaurant. While they are driving or walking to your restaurant, Google+ Local is serving them results from other businesses in the area – from coffee shops (you might want a drink to go with your pizza you just ordered) to local attractions and even real time traffic reports. All sent to their mobile device and updated on the fly.
When they get to your restaurant they can provide real time feedback to you via your page as they check into your business. If the service is slow you will hear about it. If your waitress Laura is doing a great job you will hear about that too. The feedback they send you also becomes another review of your business for others to read the next time they want to order pizza.
As you might see, this is more than just a simple facelift for Google Places. When you start adding in other products, like Google AdWords, Google Product Search and more, Google+ Local becomes a hub for any local business owner who wants to do business online, whether they have a website or not.
If it works out this way, this product will be the Yellowpages (and virtually every other online directory) killer. After all, why would you need to visit 1/2 dozen different directories, review sites, coupon sites and so on, when Google can offer you the customer all this information in one convenient location?
Granted we’re probably 6 months to a year away from such a system but one can see how Google+ Places is going to be a game changer if Google realizes even a portion of the potential of this new product.