Last year, Google introduced a nice little feature called ‘popular times’ that indicated when a business was expected to be at its busiest. Appearing alongside the opening hours within Knowledge Graph, it allows people to plan their visit to avoid peak times and shows them how long people tend to stay.
The available data on any given hour within the ‘popular times’ graph is based on the typical peak popularity for the business week on week.
Last week, Google made this insight even more accurate by introducing live data based on actual visits. Using its own data, Google now offers customers a heads up on how busy the place they’re planning to visit is in real time.
What data is Google using?
With this new live popular times feature, Google tracks actual visits and business footfall via users who have opted in to Google Location History.
Google Location History tracks the movement of any device connected with a Google account every day of the year and displays it for each individual user in a private timeline. Want to know where you were six months ago? Your Google Location Timeline can tell you.
Smartphone location sharing is essential for using travel apps like Google Maps so many users have it enabled, meaning Google has access to their every move. It can show users each place they visited on a particular day, how they travelled there and the duration of each stop.
When announcing the timeline feature, Google said: ‘Have you ever wanted a way to easily remember all the places you’ve been – whether it’s a museum you visited during your last vacation or that fun bar you stumbled upon a few months ago? Well starting today, Google Maps can help.’.
Well the data Google is collecting isn’t just for a trip down memory lane, it’s for third party apps and tools such as Popular Times Live.
How can businesses benefit from this data?
Although created to help provide customers with as much information about a business as possible, collecting this data also has numerous advantages for business.
This is free insight into the footfall of physical stores – with this information, business owners can see patterns, monitor time spent in store to keep an eye on waiting times and compare this with their own sales data. They can also check out their competitors to see when their peak times are and target this footfall with offers and special deals linked to the identified times.
Although it’s worth noting, if a specific business doesn’t appear to have this feature, it’s likely they don’t have enough customers with location enabled devices visiting.
The obvious potential downfall with this new update is customers avoiding your business because it’s too busy and choosing to go somewhere else – hopefully not though!