Google Search got a small, but notable, update today that focuses on helping users determine when it’s the best time to visit a nearby business.
After performing a search for a business on Google, then clicking the title to see details like its address, phone number and open hours, for example, Google will also now show you “popular times” for the business in question. This data, meant to highlight when the business is at its busiest, is accompanied by a bar chart that you can scroll through day by day.
The company explains that this sort of information can be especially useful for those who are trying to avoid long lines – like when you’re heading out to grab a coffee, doing some grocery shopping, or wanting to hit the gym. The idea is that you can better plan your time by avoiding businesses during their “rush hours” whenever possible.
Google says the feature is currently enabled for “millions” of places and businesses around the world, and will be directly accessible from Google Search on all mobile phones with an Internet connection, in modern mobile web browsers and on Android’s Google Search App. However, the feature is generally only going to appear for those places where users are “commonly curious about how busy it typically gets,” a Google spokesperson notes.
In an example (see above), the company shared an image of a Google Search for “Blue Bottle Williamsburg” in Brooklyn, which showed how much more popular the shop was on Fridays and Saturdays versus other weekdays, and how foot traffic often increased during the late morning to afternoon hours.
The feature doesn’t appear to be live yet for a number of Google users, but is in the process of rolling out now.
While the feature is not integrated into Google’s smart assistant Google Now, it’s the kind of data that could potentially be used in the future to better inform Google Now users of what to expect at the business they’re headed to after a Google Search.
While there’s a good handful of apps that allow users to see the wait times for specific businesses, like NoWait which focuses on restaurant wait times, or those calculating wait times for lines at theme parks, Google’s ability to aggregate information from millions of consumers’ smartphones is what’s powering this new, and more broadly accessible, search feature.
The company has explained in the past how it’s able to collect data from users of its Google Maps application in order to anonymously inform Google of things like traffic patterns and conditions. Similarly, that GPS-backed technology is now working to provide this business-level data as well.
“Much like we compute traffic data based on the anonymized aggregated movement of people on the road, we are able to determine relatively how busy a place is,” Google says.
For business owners, this new data could also be helpful in giving them an improved understanding of their own traffic patterns and busiest hours – at least in a general sense. Though many business owners use traffic counters and other tools to get a more accurate idea of their daily customer visits, Google’s data could provide another window on that larger picture.
However, the company isn’t making this data available in more detail to the businesses themselves, Google says. Instead, business owners, like everyone else, will be able to view the information directly on Google Search.