A HANDFUL of Dorset businesses have been approved by Google to deliver an innovation that could revolutionise people’s shopping and leisure habits.
Business View takes Google’s familiar Street View technology and extends it, delivering 360 degree virtual tours inside business premises.
Customers looking for a particular business on Google will spot a thumbnail image inviting them to ‘see inside’.
The virtual tour will also be pointed out as an option if they find the business via Google+ or Google Maps.
Research carried out in New York last summer, during NYC Restaurant Week, found that restaurant listings which included Business View had a 30 per cent higher click through to reservations.
Eighty-four per cent of 1,300 surveyed customers said Business View played a factor in their restaurant choice.
And although Google does not like to talk about how its search algorithms work, having a Business View presence is known to improve businesses’ search rankings.
Hugh Lambert is an experienced lighting cameraman and director of photography, who has worked on Countryfile, The Apprentice, Come Dine With Me and several National Geographic documentaries.
He runs 360 Dorset, which has produced virtual tours for the likes of the Harbour Heights Hotel, The Cruel Sea fish restaurant and La Roche hotel in Sandbanks.
“Pretty much every business you can think of can be done,” said Mr Lambert, who has also provided tours inside art galleries and campsites.
“Down here we’ve got amazing views and you can really showcase them.”
His prices start at £110 plus VAT for a tour shot from three panoramic viewpoints and rise according to how many more viewpoints are featured.
“It’s a pretty low price for what they get,” said Mr Lambert, of Lower Parkstone.
“You can take the tour and embed it into your own website.
“You can embed it into Facebook and you can copy it multiple times.”
Mr Lambert, who went to film school in Bournemouth and worked for RDF television before going freelance, set up 360 Dorset a year ago, running it alongside his television work, but aims to make it his full-time occupation.
“I think 360 degree photography is a very exciting area to be working in,” he said.
“It means I can fulfil my dream and live and work in the Dorset area every day, helping Dorset thrive by giving great exposure to Dorset’s businesses via this new Google product.”
Among the other businesses locally to achieve Google’s ‘trusted photographer’ status is Pixelhaus.
Its director, Richard Gosler, said: “There are few highly-effective free marketing tools out there, but Google Maps is one of them.
“By including your business you immediately appear on local search listings, without having to pay out for pay-per-click ads.
“Adding quality photography can increase your standing, offering potential clients an insight and overview of your premises.”
His clients have included music store Absolutemusic, whose MD Alan Barlcay said he had been ‘blown away and delighted’ by the work, adding: “It far exceeds my expectations.”