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This Google Maps Feature May Drive Away Customers at Your Peak Hours

Have you ever walked into a store, taken one look at how busy it was and walked right back out again? It’s something no business owner wants to see but it’s about to become easier for customers to do with a new feature from Google.

The feature tells mobile users what a store’s busy hours are. Specifically, it gives an hour-by-hour graph (6 am to midnight) for each day of the week, showing the estimated volume of people in the store. Busy times could attract users (going to a club when it’s really picking up) or, more often, turn them away (avoiding crowded restaurants).

How Do They Know?

Google is capable of getting this data on your business whether you want them to or not. They’ve effectively crowdsourced it, looking at where mobile users are at any given time. If a user’s location coincides with your business, it counts as a data point toward how many people are inside. The graph presents an estimated, aggregated average.

In the past, Google has used this same data to help out businesses. It’s the exact same principle that allows Google to estimate how many offline sales your online ads got. In that it aggregates user location at a given time, it’s also the same tech that lets Google Traffic work. But this is the first time it has become a shopping tool for consumers. It currently works on all major mobile browsers, and the Android version of the Google Maps app (not the iOS version).

There could be problems with this. If your real location does not match Google Maps, even by a little bit, the traffic volume could be completely wrong. That’s one more reason to make sure your Google My Business info is accurate.

Making It Work For Your Business

How crowded you are is generally not information you want to advertise. It can be misleading, for one thing—a retail store with lots of foot traffic may have multiple registers open and be operating smoothly. It also deprives you of a point of contact. For example, if a customer calls a busy restaurant they may be offered a reservation, but if they see it’s busy online they could just decide to go elsewhere.

Short of taking your business off Google Maps (a move we don’t recommend), there is no way to opt out. Instead, I suggest taking advantage of the info and making it work for you. You can do this three ways:

  1. Busy Hour Discounts. The hours that are busiest on Google are clearly when your key demographic has shopping time. So why not use that? Prominently offer a “Rush Hour Special” that gives a discount or extra during your peak hours only. You might net even more people than usual.
  2. For restaurants or other business where there can be a wait for service, offer an incentive. “If you wait more than 10 minutes, your dessert is free.” This not only entices customers to stick around, it also motivates staff to run as efficiently as possible. A table that doesn’t pay for their dessert leaves a smaller tip.
  3. Pull out your mobile and check your competitors’ busy hours. This would be a great time to run mobile ads.

Want to do more with your mobile marketing presence? EverSpark can help. Get a free digital marketing consultation today.