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Tech Insight : Google’s New Features For Maps, Search, And Shopping

Following the roll-out of a range of new features for Google’s Maps, Search and shopping, we take a look at what they are and what benefits they could bring to users.

Two New Features For Shopping 

It’s the ideal time of year to introduce new features to Google Shopping, hence the roll-out of two new features now. They are:

1. AR Shopping. This feature allows users to see how beauty products would look on their face, i.e. whether a shade of foundation would suit them. To do this, Google’s AR shopping presents users with a photo library featuring 148 models representing a diverse spectrum of skin tones, skin types, ages, genders, face shapes and ethnicities.  Users can search for a foundation shade on Google across a range of prices and brands, and see what that foundation looks like on a model with a similar skin tone, including before and after shots. This can help make the decision of which one to purchase easier, more convenient, more personal, and may give the user more chance of selecting the right product. Once a foundation brand/type is selected, the user can then select a retailer to buy directly through Google. This feature is helpful for both retailers and customers, and, like several of the other new features, may encourage more of boost in Google Ads plus more engagement with Google’s services from businesses.

2. Try out products in 3D and AR. This feature allows customers to examine a product all the way around, e.g. spin and zoom, as well as see a product up close. For example, users can look at shoes in their space so they can really decide if elements like the colour, laces, tread, or sole fit their style. As of now, Google says users can look at brands like Saucony, VANS and Merrell in 3D and AR, and that other brands are on the way. To use the feature, it’s a case of typing (for example) “Shop blue VANS sneakers” and tapping “View in my space.”

Three New Features for Maps 

Originally announced in September but rolled out in time for the festive season, Google has introduced three new features for Google Maps which are:

1. Live View. Using a combination of AI, billions of Street View images and augmented reality, Google says this feature allows users to navigate a city more intuitively. For example, Google says tapping the camera icon in the search bar lets users see nearby stores, coffee shops, banks and ATMs, and AR-powered directions and arrows show which direction a user is travelling and how far away they are. Users can also tap on different place categories to explore what restaurants, bars, dessert shops, parks and transit stations are nearby. One really helpful aspect of the feature is that AR overlays key information about each spot, e.g. opening times and prices. For users who are not very familiar with the area of a city they’re in (e.g. for a shopping trip), this could be a real timesaving and value-adding feature. Google says that this feature is first being rolled out for use in London, Los Angeles, New York, Paris, San Francisco, and Tokyo (on Android and iOS).

2. Find the best charging station for your electric vehicle. Although Google Maps already gives some real-time charging point information, with the new feature, users can search for “EV charging stations” and select the “fast charge” filter. Users can also see stations with chargers 50kW or higher (to charge up faster) plus, in some cities, the feature will allow users to filter for stations that offer a particular EV plug type. One of the key challenges for EV owners is finding suitable charging points nearby which can be more of a headache if you’re not familiar with the area, so this new feature offers convenience, greater peace of mind, and saves time for users.

3. See wheelchair accessible, stair-free places. Using information from business owners and contributions from the Google Maps community, this feature can be useful not just for wheelchair users, but anyone with a pushchair, or luggage. Tapping the “Accessible Places” setting in the Google Maps app shows a wheelchair icon on the business profile if it has a wheelchair accessible entrance, plus the same icon with a strikethrough if it’s a non-accessible place. Users can also use the feature to check if a place has accessible seating, disabled toilets and suitable parking. Business owners can contribute to this; i.e. they can show that their business is accessible by finding their profile, tapping “About,” and then “Edit features.”  Although Google Maps has given accessibility information since 2020, this feature expands the scope of what users can find out in advance and could therefore be extremely helpful, save time, and save potentially poor experiences. With this feature, Google is leveraging different technologies to advance the idea of virtual shopping (similar to the Metaverse idea), handling the whole shopping process, and linking directly to retailers in Google, e.g. advertisers, thereby appealing to brands, retailers and customers as well.

Search 

Google’s core service has always been its search, and this has been expanded  again with two new features that link it with local food businesses, thereby competing with aspects of food ordering apps, and its Maps feature. The new Search features are:

1. Search for your favourite dish. Originally announced in September, this feature allows users to save time and increase the personalisation and precision of their search. Users can search for an exact dish, and where they can find it nearby by typing the dish name into search, e.g. “mac and cheese near me.”

2. Multisearch near me. The introduction of this feature means that Google Lens in the Google app can be used to snap a picture or take a screenshot of a dish or an item, and the words ‘near me’ can be added to quickly find a place that sells it nearby.  Cindy Huynh, Product Manager for ‘Lens’ says “This new way of searching will help me find local businesses in my community, so I can more easily support neighbourhood shops during the holidays.” 

What Does This Mean For Your Business? 

With these exciting new features, Google is funding more ways to leverage, combine, and integrate its existing services (Search, Maps, and Shopping) to create more value by focusing on improving how they can be used to link them more closely to smaller businesses for use on the go.

These features are likely to be of particular interest to users at this time of year (Christmas shopping) which could in itself encourage more trial and more of a buzz about them. This combination of new features also integrates with Google My Business, Google Ads, and aspects of Search which, in turn, could make local city businesses engage more with Google’s service and could boost ad sales too. These are also a way for Google to compete with the many popular other Map apps that people now use, such as Waze, HERE WeGo, Bing Maps, MapQuest, Maps.me, OpenStreetMap, OsmAnd, and more.


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