Episode 17: Shopping Centers

In this episode we look into the contributions Local Guides can make when visiting shopping centers/shopping malls. Basically those are the same as for other places on Maps, but still there are some aspects here that require some special consideration. So let’s dive into some ‘Local Guide best practices’ when it comes to shopping centers.




Jan Van Haver 0:06
Welcome to Episode 17 of the LetsGuide Podcast, the ultimate podcast for Google Local Guides. This episode, we look into the contributions local guides can make when visiting shopping centers, shopping malls. Basically, those are the same as for other places on maps, but still there are some aspects here that require some special consideration. So let’s dive into some local guide best practices when it comes to shopping centers.

Jan Van Haver 0:36
Before we do, as always, I want to point out that I am not an official representative of Google and I have no official affiliation to Google or the local guides team. I’m just a local guide like most of you. By the way, if you’re not a local guide, yet, and you’re listening to this, please go to episode number one. Listen to it. It’s about 20 minutes, then sign up for Local Guides program and come back to hear the rest of this episode, of course. Everything you hear in this podcast is my personal interpretation of things, and this episode is being recorded at the beginning of January 2020 – and is therefore describing the situation as it is today. Should you be listening at a later date, things might of course have changed.

Vanessa P. 1:25
Let’s get started.

Jan Van Haver 1:28
Shopping centers are very interesting for local guides, as those are areas with a lot of points of interest, places on Maps, closely together and most of the time indoor, so it’s also possible to do your local guide contribution work there when the weather conditions – for example, when it’s rainy or very cold outside or the lighting circumstances when it’s dark (and in winter, of course, this is quite early in the evening already the case) – so when weather or light does not allow proper local guide work outside. Well, you can always do local guiding outside, but it’s often difficult when there’s not enough light, when it’s dark outside, to upload a lot of decent pictures for the points of interest; so in those cases, you might then need to return to that place at a later date, when there’s enough light to take pictures, which is a pity if it’s a place that you don’t visit a lot, or that you visit only for local guide purposes – as some dedicated local guides most certainly do. Actually on Connect, Local Guides Connect, the official forum provided by the Google team, I’ve seen testimonials that the discovery of an unmapped shopping center has been described as something like ‘local guides heaven’. The reason is quite straightforward: this is of course an opportunity to add a lot of new points of interest (which, as you might remember, bring 15 points each), and add a lot of pictures for all those newly maps points of interest. So you can understand that this is a very enjoyable if you’re a local guide. I myself have not yet had the pleasure of discovering an unmapped shopping center, but of course I keep hunting for it constantly.

Jan Van Haver 3:33
Most shopping centers are on the map already, though, and most even have indoor mapping, which is not available in all countries, though. If you want to check if it’s available, what you have to do is open Google Maps in the map view, so not the satellite imagery, and zoom in on the shopping center, until you really see a detailed indoor indoor plan, with the possibility even – when you use maps on mobile – to select the different floors, if it’s a multi-level, multi-floor mall, of course. And even the location of the stairs or the lifts is indicated on this indoor map, which is really very practical. If there is no indoor mapping, well… local guides can’t edit themselves. The business owner or the manager of the shopping center needs to do that. In the shownotes, I will include a link with all the details about indoor mapping and the way how those managers or business owners can reach out to the Google team to provide this indoor map. Actually, it’s quite easy: they can simply upload an existing floor plan, and the Google team will then process it to provide an indoor map on Google Maps for that shopping center. So if you come across a shopping center with no indoor mapping, why not try to figure out who is responsible for the management or the administration and reach out to them to explain how easy it is, and to show them the link that you can find the shownotes with all the information about indoor mapping.

Jan Van Haver 5:17
The fact that most of the shopping centers are mapped already does not mean that there’s nothing to do for local guides in those cases, as ‘mapped’ not automatically means ‘maintained’. Sometimes the shopping centers were added years ago – the mapping of them was originally done with an upload or something years ago. And in the meantime a number of shops will have closed or replaced by others, new ones have been added, so loads of opportunities for local guides to make contributions there. Certainly also check the neighboring area, so not only inside the shopping center, but the immediate vicinity, a couple of hundred meters around the shopping center for shops that are positioned there but actually belong inside the shopping center. I’ve seen this for quite a few shopping centers and especially for new shops that have been added after the shopping center was already opened. Sometimes those are simply put in a place near the shopping center, not inside the shopping center. So obviously, that’s a very nice opportunity for you as local guide to correct the map marker, the place where the point of interest is on Google Maps.

Jan Van Haver 6:37
A number of other edits you can make inside is, well, map markers in general. Sometimes inside the shopping center shops move around from one location to another. So that’s a perfect excuse for you to move around throughout the entire shopping center and just check the location, the map marker for each individual store to see if it’s still the correct one. Inside the shopping centers, you will often find a lot of shops belonging to chains. For those you can check if there are inconsistencies in, for example the naming, or the category. So: compare those shops belong to a chain to other shops of the same chain in other shopping center or shopping streets. If you find that the naming is not consistent, or the category for example is not consistent, you can of course change it inside that shopping center. But that’s a telltale sign that probably other shops of that same chain will also be in need of correction – so, more opportunities for local guides to earn some decent points there. And as always, in general, check the names, the ways those are written: capitalization, yes or no? Sometimes in all caps, things like that; legal additions, like ‘Ltd’ or ‘Inc’. That’s the general stuff you can always check for all points of interest of course.

Jan Van Haver 8:14
The next point I want to address is answering questions about, for example, accessibility – restrooms, parking – what should you do in these cases? Each individual shop does not have a toilet or a parking space, and so on, but the shopping center as a whole has all of them of course. And in my view, because the shopping center is the destination of the Google Maps user, that central infrastructure is valid for all the individual shops. So I usually say ‘Yes’ to the questions for each shop – given, of course, that all the other, for example accessibility features like lift are also present. So even, for example, the question about accessibility parking space for a shop on the third floor, I answer ‘Yes’, as the person in need of that parking space really needs to know if he or she can go to the shopping center by car and is aware that there will still be some distance to be covered from the parking space to that shop on the third floor. And this approach actually saves people from going through the trouble of having to find the central point of interest for the shopping center to find the specific information – because apart from all individual stores, there’s also a point of interest on Maps for the shopping center with the category ‘shopping mall’. So if the info about parking, accessibility and so on is only mentioned on that central point of interest, it can be very tough to find out this information, especially in a big mall with, say, 200 shops. Then, if the information is only added to the one central point of interest for the shopping mall as such: tough to find out within those 200 points of interest of course.

Jan Van Haver 10:15
That brings me to another important point. Make sure to add for example pictures and reviews to the correct point of interest. Reviews for the shopping center as a whole should be added to that central point of interest, reviews for specific shops to that specific shop. Pictures for an individual individual shop: add them to the shop point of interest, not to the central point of interest for the shopping center. And, as already mentioned in previous episodes – think for example of episode 3 about selecting pictures or episode 6 “Breaking the rules” – take care not to upload doubles, duplicate pictures. You could be reasoning: “Well, this shop is inside the shopping center, so the picture I took of this shop and uploaded already to the shop point of interest, I can easily also add it to that central shopping center point of interest, because that’s valid as well”. Don’t do this because it’s not going to end good for you.

Jan Van Haver 11:23
Next on my list is: make sure to check the facts. A lot of local guides are suggesting edits are in the area of shopping centers. So there are bound to be some of those that need checking – the Check The Facts module is still on my list of things for future episodes, so if you want to find out more about that, just keep listening to the LetsGuide Podcast. And also the module Uncover Missing Info is very, very important too here. Typically there are a lot of things that you can add and, as I mentioned before, a lot of these points of information can be answered or added by using the info of the central shopping center also for individual shops. A tricky one, however, can be opening hours, because those are not always the same compared to the info on the central point of interest – so, the shopping center itself. In some shopping centers I’ve seen that the opening hours listed for the shopping center refer to the shops, but not really to the restaurants or the bars in them, which typically are open later than the shops to accommodate shoppers that got hungry or thirsty from all that shopping. Another deviation in opening hours that I’ve seen myself is a hairdresser in a shopping center near to where I live, and which is in fact the salon that I visit myself from time to time, that already opens at 9 AM, while most of the other shops in the shopping center only open at 10. And that’s quite convenient to know, as there typically is only a very short waiting time for those early visitors – another example of why it is so important to have accurate information, in this case the opening hours, on Google Maps.

Jan Van Haver 13:26
Something I definitely also need to mention is that shopping centers are often an ideal meeting point if you want to host a Meet-up, because they typically have quite a lot of parking space for the participants that come by car, and they usually also have a good public transit, or offer public transit possibilities to reach it quite easily for those who come by public transportation.

Jan Van Haver 13:56
The final thing I want to point out is that you should be aware that shopping centers usually have their own security team, and that the instructions given to that team are not always compatible with all local guides activities. You have to remember, of course, that shopping centers are private property. So whatever the management of the shopping center has given as instructions to the security team needs to be respected. Sadly, those instructions do not take into account, sometimes, the good intentions of the local guides or the possible impact the local guides contributions can have for the businesses. In my personal experience, I’ve already have been told by a security guard not to take a picture of a shop inside the shopping center unless I could present him a written permission from the business owner of that shop, which obviously I did not have. Perhaps they suspect that competitors might want to take pictures of the storefront to steal marketing ideas – no idea. Anyway, even trying to explain about the local guides program to that security guard did not really help, which makes me suspect that he was acting upon instructions from the management. So in that case, I respected the requests – and so should you in similar cases. Let’s just hope that more business owners learn about the positive value of contributions made by local guides on Google Maps.

Vanessa P. 15:36
It’s time for some news.

Jan Van Haver 15:39
It’s been a number of weeks since the last episode, so obviously there’s loads of news once again. Something I find very practical has to do with electrical vehicle charging stations. Owners of an electrical vehicle can now choose to only show on Maps the plugs that fit their type of charger, because there are several different types on the market. And with the setting, they can make sure that only those that fit their type of plug are shown on Maps. Local Guides can also enter this information, so for these charging stations, they can say “okay, they have these kinds of plugs, these types”; they can indicate the power in kilowatts and the number of plugs for that type. There was an issue at the beginning when this was released, because as local guide you could indicate the type but not the kilowatts or the numbers – the arrow where you could send it was just grayed out all the time. This was reported and already fixed, so that proves very nicely that if the priority is high enough things can be changed on Google Maps quite quickly.

Jan Van Haver 17:07
Another news item was about the redesign that is announced of the app, the Maps app, on mobile devices. That redesign is supposedly made to better support hand gestures in the newer operating system versions. The most striking difference is that the hamburger menu, the three horizontal stripes in the top left corner, goes away completely. And the things you access right now through this menu will move either to the bottom of the screen, or a number of other features will be in the user menu, so the menu you access by clicking your profile picture in the top right corner – quite curious how that all will look like.

Jan Van Haver 17:57
Then there’s a bit of news about myself, because some time ago, I was asked by the Google team to write a blog post with the story of how I became a local guide for The Keyword, that’s the official company blog by Google. And that posts got published just a few weeks ago. In all my vanity I will of course include a link to that in the shownotes so that you can read the story of how I became a local guide.

Jan Van Haver 18:31
And finally, I want to address a new project that I launched last weekend, actually. It’s called Local Guides Clean The Map. And the project is all about removing things that do not belong on maps: old entries, duplicates, spam, things like that. For sure there will be a separate episode on Local Guides Clean The Map – probably not the next episode in two weeks, because I’m still researching a lot, but you can already find a lot of information on the project on Local Guides Connect and I will obviously share a link in the shownotes where you can find out more. Please check it out and, if possible, also take part – I would love that a lot of local guides take part in Local Guides Clean The Map to also make contributions of that kind. Would be very nice.

Jan Van Haver 19:35
That’s all I have for this episode. Please do reach out to me if you have any comments or remarks. Can be done through email: send me an email to letsguidepodcast@gmail.com, send me a message on Twitter where I’m found under the name LocalGuidesGuru or perhaps on Facebook in the Local Guides World community – there I’m hanging out quite a bit there as well. You can find me on Local Guides Connect of course under my name @JanVanHaver. Or you could also get in touch with me on my blog, which I will also link to in the shownotes. Of course those shownotes, by the way, can be fine found on letsguidepodcast.com. Thank you very, very much for listening once again, and I hope you will continue to listen to the next episode, which is due in two weeks time.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

One thought on “Episode 17: Shopping Centers

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s