Looking at Google’s new maps inside view, it brings to mind a general problem with physical shopping vs online shopping. With online shopping, I know exactly who has the item that I wish to buy, and I know what the price of that item is. I can instantly perform comparison shopping without leaving the comfort of my home. This convenience has a down side as well, when I do not know exactly what I want to buy and am just shopping for entertainment the online experience lacks substance. It is much more fun to peruse best buy than it is to scroll down a page of picture of gadgets. This is where Google can help.
One of the things that Google has done that has no clear immediate value to the company is to map the world in extreme detail, this has come to include the inside of stores. Amazon does not have this capability. In addition, Google has its hangout technology which, when leveraged with this inside indexing gives Google both a search index of the real world, and the ability to have a high-fidelity experience with an actual salesperson.
Imagine, Google indexes all of the shops in the world, coffee shops, hot dog stands, I mean everything along with real-time inventory of the items in search results. Then they index those images using OpenCV or some other image recognition technology. Alongside that, every retailer in the world assigns one or more salespeople inside of the shop to carry a tablet capable of performing a hangout. Again this represents a giant biz-dev nightmare, but keep bearing with me.
Now comes the beautiful part, I, at home am surfing the web on my tablet when I get the itch to go shopping. Instead of hopping into my car, I allow Google to suggest stuff that I might be interested in ( Amazon has a huge lead here, but Google will likely catch up due to their having more signals ). While I’m looking through the suggestions, I see a watch that I am very interested in, so I click into it and it shows me a map of all of the places around me that have that watch. I click again and ask for a horizontally swipable, inside view of the top 5 locations that have the watch.
I can actually browse the inside of the store, see the display with the watch in high resolution. There will be a little place that I can click inside the store if I need help as in the watch is not on display, or the shop keeper will be notified that I am browsing. At this point, the shop keeper can signal that they want to have a hangout with me in g+, or I can swipe to the next place at any time and browse that place. If I do want to discuss the item in a hangout, I can either initiate or respond to an invitation from the shop keeper. While on the hangout, the salesperson can express their craft, showing me alternate items, asking me to send data over, such as measurements, we could exchange documents, etc…
This future would be tremendous, and it is something that only Google can do. But wait, there’s more! Imagine that at this point with my Google Glasses, now I can have a full AR view with the details of each item coming up in my heads up display along with other shops’ more aggressive deals ( read ads ). It would be ridiculously awesome!
Ultimately this will level the playing field with online as well as brick-and-mortar retailers, with the brick-and-mortar guys having a slight advantage until the online retailers start hiring sales reps for g+ hangouts or an equivalent technology. I believe that this will bring a pretty large increase in the number of sales people employed and reverse the current employment drain that retail is experiencing. It makes perfect sense as to why Amazon is trying to build out its mapping technology as quickly as possible. It will be interesting to see who wins.