How Important Are Sexy Maps in Local?

First there was Google with Street View, then Bing added Street Side and Map Apps. Everyscape is providing interior photography on maps, and will be launching with many partners soon (including YP). In Europe interior photography is becoming more common on directory sites.

Recently in the UK Yell dramatically upgraded its site and mapping tools. Now en France PagesJaunes seems to be readying a mapping (and mobile) experience (“Urban Drive”) that seeks to similarly go head-to-head with Google and Bing. It offers 3D mapping, “augmented reality” and map apps. If the actual functionality matches the demo video it will be impressive:

It won’t be out until later this year. However the imagery and functionality are provided by Earthmine.

All this is “cool” and visually compelling. It can also be very useful where visual information makes a difference, which it often does (e.g., looking for a hotel).

The question that arises in my mind is: how “necessary” is all this sexy mapping functionality becoming? And is it becoming something of a commodity now too?

Are directories and other local search sites going to need to adopt this type of mapping imagery to remain competitive over time? Or will advanced mapping capability remain a “nice to have”?

What do you think?

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8 Responses to “How Important Are Sexy Maps in Local?”

  1. Mike Mueller says at

    I question how necessary they are. I always think of the adage: “Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.” Just because companies are capable of developing these “sexy maps” doesn’t necessarily mean that users will find them more useful.

    Having said that, there will be applications in which it is indeed a plus. Certainly, if I am looking for say, a hotel, I will find it very useful to see the hotel interior…or gauge where museums are in relation to the hotel, etc. But are these kinds of maps helpful to most local search users? No. But I don’t think that will stop the continued growth of these kinds of map applications, either.

  2. Greg Sterling says at

    Mike:

    I agree that it’s not always necessary (e.g., dentists, home improvement, etc.). But will users become conditioned to expect this functionality on sites? Images are appealing and the functionality is “fun.”

  3. Scott says at

    Not sure it is that big a win in existing mobile or desktop experience.  But, the overlays will be huge once we all have glasses/contacts with heads up display http://spectrum.ieee.org/biomedical/bionics/augmented-reality-in-a-contact-lens/0.  You wonder if it’s too much too soon though.

  4. Greg Sterling says at

    The future never looks exactly as the prognosticators say it will. But the data overlays will be significant I agree.

  5. Stan Gauss says at

    Greg,

    Not sure if this is relevant but a few years ago I did a driving directions test. Originally, I had the link only near the map and got little or no usage. After that, I created a communication area with things like “send to phone” and “Contact Us” and decided to add “Get Driving Directions” and the usage went through the roof.

  6. Greg Sterling says at

    Yep: maps are hugely popular and a primary use case for local searchers and mobile users.

  7. Paul Manns says at

    Enhanced maps or business imagery could help the user to the extent that the maps provide additional information to help them decide between alternatives or further evaluate the business. Users clearly see imagery as important to forming a conclusion about a business. But it’s very important that the execution of the features/content does not confuse or distract the user from achieving their goal. I think the local business advertiser would agree with this as well.

  8. Index Web Marketing - Montreal says at

    Whenever I go on trip whether its local or abroad, I check out Street View to get an opinion from a business, it’s almost like dating.

    Local web services in my town are starting to invest massively into realistic maps and that is a plus that will distinguish them from customers.

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