OCTOBER 16, 2013 By Kavita Sherman
Busy corporate event planners are always looking for an edge to get their jobs done quickly. Google Business Photos may be the shortcut they need to minimize travel and make decisions faster and easier.
Launched in January, 2012, Google Business Photos is a “gee-whiz” tool that is part research, part fun. Event planners can take virtual tours of small- and medium-sized businesses, using their computer or mobile device to explore, engage with, and tour a business. The fun comes from the game-like features in Google Business Photos, which enable viewers to interact with the business by zooming in, panning up or down, moving closer to something, and rotating 360 degrees to examine all the business’ customer-facing spaces.
“Google is using this technology to create a visceral experience for people,” Gery Petrof, the owner of Gery Petrof Photography and a Google Trusted Photographer, says. “Businesses that offer venues where corporate events can be held are using Google Business Photos to give people the opportunity to ‘visit’ the site beforehand and, hopefully, attract them to come in and want to take a tour.”
According to Petrof, Google Business Photos relies on Google Maps and its Street View technology to create 360-degree virtual tours of corporate venues and retail spaces.
“It’s interesting how integrated Google products are,” Petrof says. The Google Business Photos he shoots for his customers appear in Google searches, Google Maps, and on his customers’ Google Plus Local Places pages. Additionally, the images can be embedded in and displayed on the customer’s own business webpage and social media profiles.
While many retailers use Google Business Photos, some nonprofit organizations are giving it a go. For instance, the conservancy for Cuyahoga Valley National Park (CVNP) is using the technology to bring a 21st century approach to its marketing efforts. The conservancy hired Petrof to photograph its facilities, including Happy Days Lodge, Stanford House, and the conference center and Stone Cottage at Hines Hill, as a way to tout its facilities to people who want a different experience for their weddings, meetings, retreats, and/or catering events. The images Petrof took appear on the conservancy’s website and provide a panoramic walkthrough of CVNP’s facilities. Plus, prospective customers can easily share the virtual tour with colleagues and friends and get a sense of the rental spaces before they actually visit.
A business that wants to be part of Google Business Photos doesn’t need technology wizardry to get started. The main requirement is that a Trusted Photographer or Trusted Agency manages the process. In Cleveland, there are five photographers—all of whom are independent contractors and/or business owners--who have the Trusted Photographer certification, meaning that they are trained to take high-quality photos before processing and uploading them using Google’s proprietary software. Google handles the technicalities of creating the 360-degree panoramic walkthroughs, but it is the photographer who ensures the images flow as they should before they are published. After the photographer signs off, Google Business Photos are published within one to three business days.
The cost for the photographic and upload services start at $399, a one-time fee since there is no cost to be part of Google Business Photos. Plus, the business owns all rights to the images taken.
According to Petrof, the set-up, staging, and photo shoot take approximately one-and-a-half to two hours. Google’s privacy policies mandates that any person(s) shown in the panoramic imagery have their faces blurred out. However, with customers who want to show people, Petrof uses another technology and service so they can appear in the photo.
Locally, retailers have been Petrof’s most ardent customers. Recently, he photographed Vitamix’s factory store in Solon, where Vitamix sells its certified reconditioned blenders at prices beginning at $329.
“Google Business Photos brings in customers who view specific items during the virtual tour,” Petrof says. “When they arrive at the store, they are ready to buy.”
© 2013 CBC Publishing, Inc. Used with permission.