Is Amazon Defining the Future of Bricks and Mortar Retail with AI?

Bricks and mortar has expenses like staffing that don’t exist in online shopping. They also have checkout friction that slows the process and is one of the pain points. Self checkout that you see at BJ’s or a few grocery stores might be good for the business but they have never been good for the shopper.

Effectively there has not yet been an Amazon like “One-Click” solution to the problem. Until now. Or at least it would so appear and Amazon is the source.

I have no idea whether this is an Amazon only project for their bricks and mortar stores or something that is being planned as technology that will be made more broadly available. Regardless it will change retail and the last refuge of the working class, low paying retail jobs will also be out the window.

Google Local Spam Hall of Shame

If its good enough to do, its good enough to do in excess.

Particularly with a name that gets verified in the GMB. The only questions I have remaining are his age, his wife’s name and how many children he has.

Maybe Google should do away with categories and attributes and just allow businesses to put everything including the kitchen sink (and emoji’s of course) in their name field.

Max Minzer though asked on Twiter: why just 3 stars? My theory is that he hit the field character limit and it was removing two stars or removing some other more critical piece of information.

Via Joy Hawkins. Listing here.

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PS the beginning and ending characters are Unicode Emojis which can easily be inserted for dramatic affect even without the excessive detail

Google My Business Rolling Out Attributes to Single Listings

screenshot-2016-12-02-12-06-45In May Google added the ability to add yes/no attributes via API in May and allowed API users to add non binary attributes like menu links in September. Joy Hawkins has reported that the GMB now has the ability to add attributes to single listings.

It is interesting that:

  • Attributes are not available to all business types (lawyers and doctors do yet show them, while restaurant and bricks and mortar do). It is unclear if or when they might be added.
  • So far it only allows for binary attributes; ie yes or no but doesn’t allow for things like menu links which are allowed via the API. One presumes that is coming.
  • Each business type has a very limited preselected set of attributes from which to choose that sometimes is not really expansive enough. For example restaurants are not asked if they provide free wifi. The choices are even less than those presented to Local Guides who have been seeding this data for quite some time.

Here are screen shots of some of the attributes available:

Continue reading Google My Business Rolling Out Attributes to Single Listings

Google Adding More GMB Notifications?

Barry Schwartz reported on a new feature that allows configuration of your Google My Business settings to send notifications on a wider range of tasks than was previously permitted. The new feature will allow the account (as opposed to each location) to set email and mobile app notifications for the following activities:

  • Important updates
    Google may send you important updates about your account
  • Customer reviews
    Alerts when customers post reviews of your business
  • Customer photos
    Alerts when customers post photos of your business
  • Listing health
    Timely alerts to help you keep your business info accurate on Google
  • Insights
    Personalized insights and tips about your customers and listing
  • Product updates
    Occasional alerts about new features and offers to improve your listing’s performance
  • Feedback
    Occasional opportunities to send product feedback to Google

Google has published a detailed Help Page: Manage your notifications:

You can choose which kinds of Google My Business notifications you receive on your mobile device and in your email inbox. Notifications can help in a variety of ways, like letting you know when customers leave photos or reviews for your business listing, alerting you to product news from Google, and reminding you to keep your listing up-to-date.

Manage email notifications
To manage the Google My Business notifications you receive via email:

Sign in to Google My Business.
Go to business.google.com/settings.
Check the box for each kind of notification that you want to receive.
These settings apply to all listings owned or managed by the account that’s signed in to Google My Business. To see which account you’re currently using, tap the menu icon at the top left of the screen, and see which account is listed at the top of the panel that appears. To set notifications settings for another account, sign out, then sign back in with the other account.

Regardless of your notifications settings, you may still receive important updates about your account from Google.

Manage mobile notifications
To manage the Google My Business notifications you receive on your mobile device:

Open the Google My Business app. (If you don’t already have the app, you can download it for Android or iOS.)
If you manage more than one listing, select a listing that’s owned or managed by the Google account whose settings you’d like to manage.
Tap the menu icon > Settings > Notifications.
Check the box for each kind of notification that you want to receive.
These settings apply to all listings owned by the account that owns the listing you’ve selected in Google My Business app. To set notifications settings for another account, repeat the steps above.

Unfortunately the feature does not yet appear to be generally available. Or at least it’s not available in either my mobile app or my GMB dashboard. Is it visible in yours?

Whether it is rolling out or just in final testing I am not sure. I will ask Google and let you know. When the feature does become fully available it will be a welcome way to monitor your listing.

Update: It is now appearing in all of my accounts and since the posters below range from India to the West Coast it would appear to be a full and rapid rollout. As a note, it is opt-out rather than opt-in.  All in all a welcome update.

Videos from the Web Showing in the Knowledge Panel

Sergey Alakov (a Toronto SEO that spends way too much time looking at local search results 🙂 ) spotted a mobile search result where videos from around the web are showing as integral part of the Local Knowledge Panel.

The videos are presented in a carousel format that allows the user to scroll to see 9 videos. And while in theory they are “videos from the web” in classic Google “keep em in the sandbox” fashion they are in fact videos from Youtube.  Humberview VW, where you can see the videos in their mobile Knowledge Panel, does have a YouTube Channel associated with their Local Google+ Page.

Obviously if this is more than just a test, it’s one more reason that a solid YouTube channel for your Local page makes all kinds of sense.

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Google Rolls Out Real Time Popular Times – What Can We Learn?

Last weekGoogle rolled out two new Knowledge Panel features; department hours (which show hours for any business “located in” a main listing and more significantly, they are now showing real time visitation in comparison to what it regularly is.

Here is a screenshot of the department hours of a local Walmart and search for you to explore this via clicking on the “see more hours” link.

wlmart More interesting and somewhat spookier is that Google is now showing actual visitation in real time.

As searchers we can extract specific value from the information and decide whether we want to visit or not. Clearly a nice feature.

But we can also gain some relative business intelligence. Continue reading Google Rolls Out Real Time Popular Times – What Can We Learn?

Google Testing New Local Pack in San Diego with Rollout of Advanced Verification

In early October, Google announced a new test for service area businesses that offered direct consumer contact and exhibited lots of spam (ie locksmiths, plumbers etc) that involved an advanced verification process. The advanced verification process is similar to, although less rigorous than the vetting process involve

d with the Home Service Ads that were showing in the Bay Area. Along with this Advanced Verification test, Google announced that any plumber or locksmiths in San Diego that did not Advance Verify or did not meet the standard would be pulled from the index sometime after November 10th.

What Google didn’t announce but that has now become obvious from this screen shot provided by Joy Hawkins on Twitter is that were will also be a new local display unit, the Home Services Pack, that highlights SABs that have done through this more rigorous vetting.

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The Home Service Pack lists just Advanced Verified local businesses and displays them with a check mark to signify the higher level of verification. And it appears that the unit can appear in addition to the Local Pack which shows store front businesses.

Since this has yet to really role out and seems to still be only occasionally visible we are not yet sure how many previously listed SAB Plumbers and locksmiths will be removed.

More to follow.

Sayonara Google MapMaker – To Be Retired Over the Next 4 Months

Google has announced that MapMaker will be sunset and rolled into Google Maps. Here are some thoughts from Joy Hawkins. I have not yet thought throught the implications of this but they are significant.

I just received this email:

Google Map Maker graduates to Google Maps

We have some important updates to share with you about Google Map Maker. In March 2017 we are retiring the standalone Map Maker product and will integrate its features directly into Google Maps.

This update will enable us to focus on providing the best editing and moderation experience within Google Maps on both desktop and on mobile. We’ll continue to roll out new features to make sure you’re able to do most of the things you’ve grown accustomed to doing in Map Maker – like edit roads – leading up to March 2017 and after.

Since 2008, the Google Map Maker community has edited and moderated millions of features to improve the Google Maps experience for users worldwide. The Google Maps team has since brought Map Maker capabilities, such as adding and editing places, to our desktop and mobile products to make it easier for more users to keep their communities up to date while at home or on the go. These changes have empowered many more users to update the places they care about, view the status of their edits, and moderate other users’ edits.

Starting today, edits made on Google Maps will no longer be available for moderation on Map Maker. This will allow us to streamline our efforts, speeding up the time for an edit to get published. We will continue posting updates here on the Map Maker Help Forum and on LocalGuidesConnect.com as we bring more features into Google Maps.

To keep contributing your local knowledge to Google Maps and engage with a passionate community of likeminded individuals, we invite you to join the Local Guides program where you can earn points, unlock rewards for submitting edits and other information, and get early access to new Google Maps features.

We’ve greatly appreciated your contributions to Google Maps over the years and hope you will continue to update the world around you.

Thank you,

The Google Map Maker Team

Why this makes sense for Google:
1- It will create a single unified interface to be maintained going forward.
2- Google will have a single source for changes so that things like categories and address standards can be handled in a unified way.
3- There is one less data pipeline feeding their local database keeping the whole (complicated) system simpler.
4- There will be one less spam vector.
5- They will have a unified community management process. This means fewer support people, fewer forums etc.

What we hope will happen
1- The interface will hopefully be simpler for things like road edits so that non technical folks can actually make edits
2- As Joy points out, we can only hope that Google will surface listing and feature edit histories. This is incredibly valuable in diagnosing and fixing problems. (That being said the order of the day at Google is less transparency not more)
3- That spam will actually be less (HAH one can always dream).

The not so good about the change:
1- Long term contributors will have to learn new ways of working
2- Their stature in the community and their contributions might not be properly recognized. Google has a very short memory.
3- It often takes Google years to replace features that were standard in the old system as they transition.

What we don’t know
1- Will regional leads, that will now be part of the Local Guide program, have more authoritative editing capability?
2- Will they have the ability to approve other edits or change wrong edits that were made automatically or by someone without proper ground knowledge?

I am sure that you will have additional questions. What are they?

Why the Newest Google Local Guide Give Away Sucks

screenshot-2016-11-01-08-18-18Google’s Local Guide program is a Yelp Elite like program at huge, worldwide scale. Anyone can become a guide and their is are gamefication levels that create incentives for involvement. There are also contests and give aways to incentivize continued involvement of the guides.

The newest Local Guide give away of L’Oréal professional products strikes the wrong chord with me.

Lets for a moment ignore that the give away is clearly targeted at a certain demographic subgroup of guides. And let’s even ignore that the rules in the email and the rules on the web are different.1

What really rings the wrong note for me is that it appears to be a paid ad unit and that Google is “selling” access to the Local Guides for gain. Even if that isn’t true it has the appearance of a conflict and certainly is great advertising for L’Oreal.

The people that “work” for Google creating a ton of content for their local products, whether it be photos, reviews, edits or whatever, deserve better than to become another ad target.

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1. In the email it states:
From today until November 17, every high quality review you write on Google Maps gives you a better chance to win 1 of 21 prize packages from L’Oréal
However on the web it states:
Review salons you’ve visited anywhere in the world for a chance to win one of 21 prizes

Google Adds Sharing Link to Local Knowledge Panel

I have not seen this before. Not sure if a test or a release. Google is getting downright social in their old age.

And in typical Googly fashion THEY decide which sharing I should be able to use rather than relying on the iPhone OS level options. Oops just seemed to have forgotten SMS/iMessage. Big surprise there.

It seems that Google just can’t resist falling into this sort of passive aggressive monopolist mode. It must be what is best for the user.

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