Microsoft is giving mobile users the ability to search for shops and locations inside of malls with the addition of mall maps and map search on Bing for Mobile Browse.
“We’re excited to share that as of today, our collection of more than 400 shopping malls is available from m.bing.com making it easier to get where you’re going and find what you need on the go,” announced Microsoft in an August 3 post on its Bing Search Blog.
The addition of indoor mall maps to Microsoft’s mobile solution is a small but significant shift that hints at the increasingly important role smartphones will play in the future of consumer shopping.
As digital marketing agency White Horse mentions in a July 2011 study on the Future of In-Aisle Mobile, “shoppers are storming retail aisles armed with smartphones and a determination to change the way they buy.”
Equipped with detailed information about shop locations within busy, complex malls “in-and-out” shoppers, even those who have never visited the mall before, can quickly find what they are looking for.
Where the detailed interior mapping scene gets even more interesting is when mobile users are able to use their device to locate individual items within a store and on arrival find location-based coupons for the product.
An indoor mapping company called Point Inside is already pursuing this avenue. Point Inside recently launched a new feature on its “find-it” mobile app that combines shopping lists with in-store location-based maps, helping shoppers locate items within a supermarket.
An iPhone app called Meridian follows a similar concept, offering to find your seat within a stadium, locate books within a book store, to find artwork at the museum.
Google is also looking into the possibilities of indoor mapping. In May 2011 Google introduced Business Photos for Google Maps, a kind of interior Street View that lets you “enter” local businesses to see what’s inside.
If the URL of Microsoft’s blog post is anything to go by (http://www.bing.com/community/site_blogs/b/search/archive/2011/08/03/new-airport-maps-for-bing-and-mall-maps-come-to-mobile.aspx) the company is not stopping at the interior of malls. Detailed airport maps may be the next feature to land on Microsoft’s Bing mobile map site.