Google is reportedly rolling out a new set of features for businesses in Maps intended to showcase online-specific services. The company intends the new features to help offset disruptions to businesses resulting from the ongoing global pandemic.
To that end, it has built the changes around helping Google Maps users gain a better understanding of any given business. But the changes also include new features. Those are geared toward helping users to gain access to businesses faster and more conveniently than ever.
Arguably the most impactful of the new features is the addition of new Google Maps attributes. For clarity, those are the descriptive terms that typically appear just below the title and map of a given location. Appearing on oval-shaped button icons, terms might include any number of words to describe the place. For instance, a restaurant might include attributes such as "take-out," "dine-in," "comfort food," or "breakfast."
Now, the attributes will be able to include online-specific attributes. A business that offers virtual services, such as music lessons or fitness training, might now list those as attributes. Google's provided example includes listing "Available online" as an attribute, for example.
The goal of the new attributes is to better inform users of exactly what they can get remotely from a given company.
What else is new for Google Maps online-first services and businesses?
Tying directly back into that, Google is also expanding on a previously-existing feature dubbed "Reserve with Google." That's atop a few other new restauarant-specific features.
Reserve with Google is a feature that lets users book an appointment or reserve a time for services online. More directly, that's within Maps itself. So users won't need to navigate away to a business's website or a third-party service. And they'll still be able to take advantage of those types of business-to-consumer interaction. That also saves time and will prove more convenient for some users. Especially compared to having to make a call or interact via a messaging platform.
Now, in addition to offering integration with more than 100 service-booking partners for in-person services, businesses can offer appointments for online services directly via those partners. And they'll additionally be able to provide deeper details about how online appointments or services can be kept. Again, that's without users needing to navigate away from Google Maps.
Restaurants will be able, in the future, to specify which delivery or takeout partner they want customers to use. In effect, businesses will be able to set their own preferences.
Finally, Google has decided that takeout- or delivery-only businesses can now obtain a verified business listing in Maps.
This is part of a larger concerted effort to handle COVID-19
The online-services changes being brought to Google Maps reflect a larger, concerted effort by Google to address consumer needs amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. In the US, in particular, has seen a steady increase in cases. It tops the list as the most impacted nation in the world. So the ability to see what services are still available is becoming more important due to the sheer number of cases.
Prior to the changes, for instance, Google also requested that businesses begin telling consumers in Maps exactly how they are addressing the outbreak. Shortly after that, the company began providing advice and warnings for users, directly related to doctor's visits and other COVID-19 facts.