Google unveiled new capabilities for Google Maps to help users more efficiently manage their time as they plan to visit specific locations around busy hours — a launch timed to help consumers manage their shopping schedule on Black Friday and throughout the holiday weekend.
"Just in time for the Black Friday swarms, we're adding a real-time look at how crowded a place is right now, to help you decide where and when to go," writes Google Maps Product Manager Jamie Aspinall. "Whether you’re rushing to pick up a last minute gift or seeking a lively bar for some festive spirit, check Popular Times for a sneak preview of what to expect when you arrive."
- In addition, Google is enabling a time management feature showing how long people usually stay at a given location — information that can help Maps users manage their own schedules. Maps also will now show more detailed information about open hours for store departments that sometimes keep different hours than the store itself, such as a pharmacy or bank branch located within a large grocery store.
These are fantastic features for those of us who are allergic to crowds, or who are just so childishly impatient that we refuse to wait for anything, and insist that our friends meet us for dinner at 4:30 in the afternoon when we’re the only ones in the restaurant who aren’t babies or senior citizens just so we can be seated and served quickly (not that we have any specific use case in mind.)
In reality, while these new Maps features would be useful in any number of ways as one is trying to manage time effectively and schedule quick trips into and out of certain destinations, they should be especially useful this weekend as shoppers flood malls and retailers (we can only hope) looking for holiday deals.
And if there is one thing Google has been trying to accomplish lately, it's been seeking to create a stronger bond with shoppers, both through development of its own new devices for consumers, such as the Pixel smartphone, creation of a retail presence in the form of Google Shops, and through new innovations in its core search functionality, like image search.
These tweaks to Google Maps may not so obviously fit in with the rest of those efforts, but it's easy to imagine that Google imagines many of the people taking advantage of these new features will be shoppers trying to make the most of their shopping excursions.
The big question is what if a shopper sees on Google Maps that a Google Shop is just a little too busy to visit right at the moment? Will Google be happier that it helped, or just happier that one of its shops was busy enough that someone decided it was too busy to pay a visit?
This story is part of our ongoing coverage of the 2016 holiday shopping season. You can browse our holiday page for more stories.