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Why and how bookstores can benefit from Google Street View

I’m sure you’ll agree, that no bookstore website looks as good as the bookstore itself. There is no magic in seeing flat book covers in a grid view. Trying to mimic the bookshelf feel the way book apps do is one way to go. The other emerging possibility is Google Maps.

Since late 2011 Google is offering interior tours via their Street View technology. Businesses can voluntarily access the program and Google’s trusted photographers with make a photo shoot inside the buildings. The result is as in the embedded view of Capitol Hill Books in Denver (you can alternatively go directly to Google Maps):

Impressive, isn’t it? What’s even more interesting is that when visiting a bookstore in Google Maps you’ve got links to the website both in the list on the left and on the hover card. But the real integration with Google starts when you click on More Info link on the hover card. You’ll land on bookstore’s Google+ page, where you can learn more about the offer and the store itself.

If all what businesses can do on the web is about generating traffic, Street View does it right. From what happens so far, Google plans to deeply integrate their services, and make Google+ pages not only the end, but also the starting point of the browsing activity. There is See Inside widget on Google+ page if the business is offering Street View tour. Inviting to virtually visit the place could become a great teaser for internet users.

Now imagine what would happen if Google Maps, Google + and Google Books are merged.

Obviously, not all businesses can benefit from Street View to the same level. There are stores that are not just fitting the magic of virtual tours. There is no need to go to a drugstore or a bicycle store. Restaurants are better, because what interior Street View is about is the mood. You want to sit in a nice looking place. The problem with restaurants, however, is that an empty restaurant usually means it’s not a good restaurant (for the time being I can’t imaging having too many blurred faces in Google Maps).

Bookstores are different. You want books, and you want to feel their presence and realize how much you’d love to read. You want to quietly move around the shelves and pick up the book that got your attention. Books are about magic, and bookstores show the magic of books – also while visiting them virtually.

“Pick up the book” – well, we are almost there. In the above embedded view of Capitol Hill Books there is an opened album in the front. The quality of pictures is surprisingly good. Now you can read titles on the covers, that’s a lot. It might be possible to read the insides. But it will be even better if Google introduced tagging to interior views. Business owners could tag some parts of the photos to update the virtual tour with currently run special offers.

Below there are just two proposals of how internal tagging could be used.

Tagging in Google Street View interior tours – example 1
When you hover over the tagged book you can see the option to read/preview the book online – with a link back to bookstore’s website.

Tagging in Google Street View interior tours – example 2
This is even simpler – when you hover over the tagged book you can see book’s info – with a link back to bookstore’s website. I made a simulation of how would it look:

Capitol Hill Books - simulation of Google Street View book tagging

Sure thing, no one will tag every single book in a bookstore. Especially that offer is changing. Also, Google Street View photo shoots, although can be done repeatedly, won’t happen every week. The idea for tagging, instead, would be to get the poster with a weekly offer and show the currently discounted book while hovering on a poster.

In fact, not only bookstores can benefit from Google Street View, but libraries too. They can use the tool to place tags inviting to set up a library card – just one example.

For now, the offer is limited to major cities in a dozen of countries (including United States, Australia, France, Canada, Spain, Italy, and UK), but for sure it will spread across the world as the program becomes more popular. For details about Google Street View Partner Program and signing up, check the official page.

There is a huge business potential in Google Street View, and bookstores are the businesses to benefit most. Virtual tours can bring back the magic of bookshelf browsing, by making a visit more real.

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