The feature is an extension of Google's real-time business-to-customer messaging service that the company introduced in select countries last year.
Businesses that signed up to the service include a Message button on their Business Profiles on Google Search allowing people to get in touch, and those same messages are set to appear in the side menu of Google Maps. This from the Google blog:
Sending messages to businesses gives you the opportunity to ask questions without having to make a phone call so that you can order a cake for your mom's birthday while on the bus or find out if a shoe store has your size without having to wait on hold.As part of the rollout, Google is also releasing a revamped Google My Business mobile app for iOS and Android that lets businesses browse their followers, reviews and messages, as well as create content for their business profile on Google.
Now you'll see your messages with the businesses you connect with via Business Profiles within the Google Maps app, where you're already looking for things to do and places to go or shop.
The dual changes follow a recent update to Google Maps that introduced a new "Follow" button to let users track businesses and learn about promotions, events and, other news. The features are Google's attempt to rival Facebook Pages, which have been the more popular go-to for companies seeking to broadcast their outward-facing business activities online.
Google Maps can be downloaded from the App Store for free. [Direct Link]