Posted October 11, 2010 9:12 am by with 1 comment

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With the success and rapid adoption of online maps services in general it only makes sense that mapping services show up for places that we get lost in most often: airports and malls.

Ever been in a mall and wonder where that stinkin’ directory is? Ever had to race to said directory to find out where the restroom was only to discover in your mad rush you already passed it? Then you or your kid has to do the “bathroom run” (you what that looks like….half hunched over and knees together trying to run which isn’t natural) in hopes you get there in time?

Well, those days are over if you are smart phone smartie and have one of the several mall and airport map services like PointInside, FastMall, Aisle411 and Micello. The New York Times reports

Mobile phone maps have guided people through streets and alleys around the globe. But when those people step into a sprawling building, they can get lost.

Inside, people have to ask strangers for directions or search for a directory or wall map. A number of start-up companies are charting the interiors of shopping malls, convention centers and airports to keep mobile phone users from getting lost as they walk from the food court to the restroom. Some of their maps might even be able to locate cans of sardines in a sprawling grocery store.

As always, we need to ask the “So what?” question as it relates to Internet marketing. This one is pretty obvious. If your store is showing up one of these apps you may want to be talking to that restroom challenged person (especially if you are selling underwear….sorry but I had to go there). In addition, if there is difficulty getting a signal indoors these maps may be stored on your device so no worries.

In this case the age old phrase “Necessity is the mother of invention” holds very true as the founder of FastMall tells where his company came from.

“It was my wife’s idea — she was six months’ pregnant and she couldn’t find a restroom,” said Sam G. Feuer, chief executive of MindSmack, the New York company behind FastMall, one of the indoor mapping services. “It’s the same thing for people in wheelchairs or with strollers who need an elevator.”

While these are nifty services indeed there is fear that the 800 pound mapping gorilla, Google, will come along to do the same thing and crush the little guys. Always a possibility for sure but on the more positive side of that idea is the following

Google, with its dominant Google Maps, worries some in the industry. Google could crush the tiny indoor mapmakers by creating its own competing service. But it is just as likely that it could be a savior by buying one or more companies or licensing their data. A Google spokeswoman declined to comment.

As these services expand there will be a need for a business model but since this is the Internet let’s not worry about such petty nuisances. Instead let’s talk about the potential.

For now, shopping malls are getting the most attention from indoor mapmakers, although many of them hope to add casinos, stadiums, universities and hospitals — anything big enough to get lost in and that draws big crowds. They are also interested in outdoor destinations like theme parks, zoos and urban shopping districts. Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, Calif., is already available on FastMall, for instance.

So this has potential for sure. How do you see it? I think it’s going to be a strong idea if it is only a niche audience but it’s an audience positioned to buy. That’s interesting for sure to anyone looking to find the right person at the right place at the right time..

Since one day being “Lost in the Supermarket” may not be an option let’s enjoy a classic song that talks about this particular form of shopping purgatory (on some level at least). Sorry for no “real” video but remember this was from the 70’s so enjoy the music from The Clash.

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