At one point or another most people have experienced the frustration of visiting a mall where they are sure a particular store can be found but not being able to find it.
For elderly and disabled people who can’t walk very far, knowing which end of the mall to start can make a big difference, and on-site signposting is not always very reliable.
It will come as a relief to many to learn that Yahoo is now planning to map indoor shopping locations just as it maps the outside world. This could also be a big plus for retailers, making local search useful even for those tucked away inside large complexes.
The maps are arriving courtesy of Nokia Here, which has collected over 75,000 maps over the past few years and adds around 300 more every month. Although Google also has some indoor maps on its system, Nokia asserts that the big search engine’s data is notably inferior, and Nokia definitely seems better at keeping things up to date.
As well as details of business locations, it also maps other useful things such as restrooms, escalators and food courts, enriching the customer experience and providing useful landmarks to help those customers find the stores they are looking for when they are actually on site.
Another useful feature of indoor mapping is its visualization of car parking areas not normally visible on street maps, making it easier for strangers to an area to assess their transport options. Phone tracking could be used to estimate how many Yahoo map users take advantage of this or, indeed, how many go on to enter stores they have been searching for online, providing useful conversion metrics for advertisers.
The availability of this system should come as a wake-up call to businesses that have not previously seen the point in investing in local search marketing. It will now be more worth their while to fill out local search profiles and, in particular, to post photos of their storefronts to make it easier for customers to recognize them; in time, they may have opportunities to build a lot of useful data directly into Yahoo’s maps.
Alongside shopping malls, venues such as sports stadiums, bus stations and airports are featured in the new Yahoo mapping system. As more and more urban spaces are covered, this approach could make life considerably easier for both the retailers and their customers.