Is Google Experimenting With In-Store Images?

Google is reportedly experimenting with a new service—to complement its Google Street Views—that will shoot pictures and videos within stores and combine all of the images in its database. If you cast aside all of the out-of-date issues inherent with infrequent store images being shown as more-or-less current, this concept has serious potential.

How many stores have you peeked into and, within four seconds, decided this wasn't the place where you want to shop for a particular item? Had you seen an image before driving, might you have saved yourself some time?

Let's flip it the other way. You're in the market for a new couch. Your Google search shows you a page with 35 results and they all, at a glance, seem interchangeable. You've already limited your search geographically, so most of these places (OK, granted, Google's geography limiter doesn't do much) are nearby. Most consumers tend to only focus on the first two or three results and choose from there.

But what if there were thumbnail photographs of the insides of all of those stores, sized and positioned so that you could meaningfully flip through them all in seconds? Might that draw your eye to Result 26? How about if the search results showed streaming video and even images allowing you to take a 360-degree tour? Consumers are visual, and they can meaningfully digest 50 images far easier than 50 text descriptions.

But addressing that first complaint: out of date. What if this Google program allowed retailers to stream live video of the store to Google? (Does Legal need to get permission of random visitors to the store? I'll rephrase: Has Legal ever said that it did not need to get someone's permission for anything?) Now the displays are always current and you control what is being shown. And it's being beamed to people searching for your product/service.

If Google Store Views is ever launched, it has the potential to be a very powerful retail tool. Assuming, of course, that you're brave enough to beam anything happening in your store to the world. Come to think of it, it might cut down on shoplifting, too.