We’ve come a long way since the days of unfolding a paper map across a dashboard just to plot the next move on our road trips. Though it’s unlikely maps will soon make another leap so dramatic as going from inhabiting our glove compartments to inhabiting our cell phones, digital maps continue to evolve at an astonishing pace.
Here’s a look at the direction future maps are heading — and its implications for local marketing.
Today, the digital map is dominated by the pin. That’s not likely to change. Pins simply make it easy to find locations on a map — too easy to ever fall out of use. However, that doesn’t mean the area around the pin will remain static. In fact, we’re seeing the buildings the pins represent undergoing a radical transformation in their clickability.
If you open Google Maps and zoom in on your current location, you’ll notice that the walls of the buildings around you have become much more distinct and “3-D” — so much so that they cast tiny digital shadows. The buildings themselves have become so visually enticing recently it’s almost as if Google wants you to click on them… which of course is precisely what Google wants you to do.
As of right now, only the largest, the most iconic and the most frequently visited buildings are getting this clickable treatment. For example, take a look at Rio’s Olympic soccer stadium, the Maracanã.
By zooming in and clicking on it, Google literally blows the roof right off the building by allowing you to toggle through its various floors, making it easy to find things like bathrooms and stairs.
Places like shopping malls and sporting venues are the current primary beneficiaries of indoor mapping. While the mapping feature is underutilized at the moment, don’t expect it to stay that way for long. As businesses and consumers become more familiar with the feature, buildings you’re less likely to get lost in will begin implementing indoor mapping as well.
The likely early adopters will be big-box retailers, especially if their businesses inhabit multiple floors with multiple departments (or even multiple businesses) under the same roof. But other industries are ripe for mapping the great indoors as well. Hospitals, with their labyrinth of various medical offices, are likely early adopters. So, too, are sprawling universities and hotels. Your business location can be an early adopter, too, if you feel so inclined. All you have to do is submit your indoor location information to Google here.
But let’s say you’re a small business that isn’t located in a shopping mall; why should you care about implementing indoor mapping? Because inventory mapping is the future of local marketing.
These days, customers do so much pre-shopping online that they’ve often picked out their product long before they set foot in a store. This is especially true for millennials, who would prefer to skip chitchatting with the sales associate and simply pick up the item they came for at the discounted price of the coupon they dug up online.
There’s an obvious need for inventory mapping — just ask anyone who has ever tried to find a tool at Home Depot on their own. It’s no coincidence that Home Depot employs some of the best sales associates in the business; we’d literally be lost without them! Granted, Home Depot does have a map with inventory placement on their app, but that only does you good if you happen to have downloaded the app.
Therefore, the logical next step in the evolution of mapping technology is inventory finding and tracking.