Redmond, Washington -- Malls are, by their very nature, quite large and gives an irresistible feeling, and while that lends itself well to a diversified retail experience, it can also be overwhelming, if you are visiting one for the first time and are unaware of the layout. Well to that end and just in time for the shopping season: Bing now maps out which stores are inside of malls instead of just placing a map marker on the building itself.
It is a rare venture that Microsoft has introduced a search features that has not been covered by Google in one form or the other yet, and if it is the case we often notice those features disappear as quickly as they surfaced. This time, Microsoft has one of the more useful new features first. Similar to satellite imagery when viewing Bing Maps on a mobile device or in the Bing Maps beta, the mall layer pops up only when you are at a certain zoom level. You can then click on any of the listed stores to get information like its address and telephone number.
“Have you ever driven to a mall, parked at one of the big department stores, then discovered the store you needed to go to was on the other side of the mall? What about experiencing the frustration of not knowing where in the mall is the store you searching for and the mall directory is nowhere in sight? And with malls being extra busy now that we are in holiday season, we will take anything we can get to help us get in, get out, and avoid the crowds,” said Bing Maps Product Manager Brian Hendricks.
Well this one is even more exclusive than the usual Bing “US only” announcement, but quite cool anyway:
Well maybe malls are somewhat of a US phenomenon. Bing promises to provide “deep coverage” for major markets, but only in the US. In a post on Bing's Maps blog, Hendricks says the new system should make it easier for people to figure out where to park and speed up the Holiday shopping process.
These elaborated layout of the floor plans varies from exact to non-existent at this time. However, we discovered that Bing displays the locations of the major stores such as Sears, Macy's, Neiman Marcus or Carson Pirie Scott in its plans as well as the location of parking lots.
“You can utilize these mall maps to understand where the right place to park is and map out your mall excursion so you do not spend precious time walking around,” says Hendricks.
Users can find the mall maps by clicking “Mall Map” within Bing Local results.
So far, Bing only covered maps for malls in Seattle, Boston, and New York metro areas, but the company on its blog said that it will continue to include new malls regularly, mainly concentrating on the largest malls in the US (for example, Mall of America, Palisades Center, etc) and getting deep coverage in major cities. Major incremental additions will be announced as they release.
Click here to view the current list of supported shopping malls. Moreover, each store within the mall map features a pop up window when clicked, offering details on the particular store:
However, oddly enough, as long as this level of detail is not available on the mobile version of Bing Maps, which would obviously be quite helpful, if you decide you want to head to a mall while away from a computer, the usability is somewhat limited.
Surprisingly, search engine titan Google has missed out to deliver Mall Maps in its search service. If you think about the fact how often you find yourself circling unfamiliar malls to find a specific store, this could be a great new feature for the Maps service.