Customers entering Pool & Spa Depot’s Cool Springs, Tenn., location can walk in already feeling familiar with the store layout and offerings. It is one of several pool and spa stores adding interactive tours to their Google My Business profiles. In Pool & Spa Depot’s case, it pops up in searches for “pool store Cool Springs.” “We do so much when it comes to retail,” said Jeff Slaughter, Internet manager for the company, which offers pool supplies and water testing, and displays hot tubs, patio furniture, saunas, inground and aboveground pools, depending on the location. “How do you show the public that? We started looking at the Google thing.”
The Cool Springs store is the only one of Pool & Spa Depot’s four locations to use the interactive tour, which went live about six months ago. Others will likely follow. Slaughter has observed the difference it makes for customers. “People come in and feel like they know the store,” he said. “They like that ability and they’re so much more comfortable coming into the store.”
More retailers are posting interior photos of their locations on Google My Business pages when they “claim” the business page. But the interactive tours — which allow people to “walk” the store along a path, like one can do with Google’s Streetview feature — take the experience a step farther than seeing the store’s interior.
“Having inside photos taken by an employee or an owner is better than not having any photos at all, and having a Google professional photographer come in is better than doing it on your own,” said David Carleton, president of spapoolmarketingsuccess.com, an Internet marketing firm.
Before choosing this route, retailers should consider the appearance of their location. “The purpose of these photos is to show a consumer what they should expect when they come into a store. So if your store is not laid out well or the colors aren’t good and it’s not attractive, that could turn people off. But ... if they see something they really like, they’re more likely to come in.”
Klapprodt Pools in Keller, Texas, has had its interactive tour live on Google for about two years. Co-owner Jeremy Klapprodt views it as another way for people to see the clean, inviting interior. “We always like to stay up to speed on the latest technology, and we’re very active with social media and online presence,” he said. “We realize more and more people do their research online and when doing so, this gives them one more step into the store before actually coming to the store. They can actually see what they should expect before they get here.”
For less than $1,000, Google sends a professional to photograph the interior for the tour. The shoot can take up to a couple of hours, and the process involves neatening shelves and cleaning areas for the best possible look.
But having the tour photographed has other advantages. Klapprodt Pools embedded the tour in several areas of its website, and Klapprodt said he was able to determine a different start point for the tour for each. For instance, in the New Pools section, the tour starts at the design center; in Retail, it starts at the doors into the store.
For all three locations of Creative Energy, the tours let the physical business tap into the online decision-making habits of customers. “It’s just a really great way of shopping with a customer without ever having the customer come into the showroom,” said Alex Brodsky, marketing manager at the Bay Area-based business.
Once a retailer offers interactive tours, their presentation must be considered when changing store layout or design. Creative Energy updated its display spas since its tours went live, but recently it launched a new website, so management decided to complete that process before updating the tour.
For stores not yet ready to launch an interactive tour or builders without a physical location to promote, Carleton recommends having photos on the business page on Google, and optimizing the Google + page.