What if every store had a bar-code sticker on its window so that you could pull out your iPhone, wave it in front of the bar code and get all sorts of information about that business—the telephone number, photos, customer reviews? Starting on Monday, you’ll be able to do that at up to 190,000 local businesses throughout the U.S.
Google has mailed out window stickers with two-dimensional bar codes (aka, QR codes) to the most-searched for or clicked-on businesses in its local business directory. Anyone with a QR code reader in their phone can scan it to call up a Google Mobile local directory page for one of these “Favorite Places,” which generally includes a map, phone number, directions, address, reviews, and a link to the store’s website. (It’s a mobile version of Google Places).
Local businesses can also set up coupon offers through their Google directory page, which would turn the QR code into a mobile coupon, and help entice someone standing outside a store to come in: “If you found us on Google, you get 20% off.”
Japan is already QR-crazy. Google wants the U.S. to be next. In conjunction with the QR code sticker roll-out, Google is also giving away 40,000 Quickmark QR Code Reader apps for the iPhone, which normally cost $1.99 apiece. But you can use any QR code reader. There are a bunch of free ones, some on Android phones as well.
There are now over a million local businesses which have claimed their Google local listing, up from a few hundred thousand last summer. If these QR code stickers become popular in the U.S., it could encourage more small businesses to claim their listings and give Google cleaner data.
In the near future, Google Maps on mobile phones will also start including businesses as points of interest. Google calls these “smart maps” internally. As the businesses are added, they are clickable, and their Places page pops up.
Google will be adding these businesses incrementally. “They are selected based on their PlaceRank,” says John Hanke, VP of Google Earth, Maps, and Local. PlaceRank is like PageRank for places It tries to figure out how prominent a place is based on factors such as “references on the Web, reviews, photos,” says Hanke, “how many people know about it, how long its been around.”
Maybe they should put the PlaceRank on the sticker. A high PlaceRank could become a badge of honor, like a high Zagat’s score.