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What Google Maps’ Location Sharing Feature Means For Brands

On-the-go Android and iOS users can now let multiple friends know their trip progress in real-time — something that further adds to Google's ability to serve local businesses.

Google Maps is letting its mobile app users let share their real-time location as they’re en route from one place to another.

The capability is far from revolutionary — Uber allows its customers to text real-time trip progress by giving the app access to passengers’ mobile address book, for example — but it does represent yet another way for Google Maps to keep its users engaged as competition from other map platforms continues to tighten.

As Daniel Resnick, Google Maps’ engineering manager, notes in a blog post, keeping users within its walled garden by offering more services is key.

“‘Where are you now?’ and ‘What’s your ETA?’ Whether you’re heading to a party or meeting up for dinner, you probably hear questions like this pretty often from family and friends,” Resnick writes. “Soon Google Maps users worldwide will be able to answer those questions in just a few taps, without ever leaving the app.” [Emphasis is ours.]

The Location Sharing feature follows Google Maps’ January redesign, which also sought to find more ways to keep users within the app. That last update offered more options and information for users of on-demand ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft, along with in-map views of nearby cars as well as background on planned destinations, including reviews, articles, restaurant menus.

The offering of menus was one clear way Google Maps presented local restaurants the chance to take advantage of promotions within the app. In a larger sense, Google’s gradual joining of marketing programs like Inventory Ads within Google Maps opens up a great deal of benefits for brands that want to appeal to users’ search for “micro-moment” experiences whether going to meet for a meal, shopping, or a museum or cultural trip.

There are other possibilities that might be presented to local marketers given Google Now’s ability to know if someone has a birthday celebration or romantic evening planned.

It’s conceivable that ads for gifts, wine, or flowers could be served to Google Maps users at any point during their trip.

At the same time, Google Maps may also be aware if someone is running late to an appointment and realize that would not be an optimal time to send someone an ad for a brunch deal, thereby reducing wasted ad spending.

Furthermore, consider how other Google platforms might be able to take advantage. Here’s a potential scenario: a person gets into a Lyft, Uber, Gett within Google Maps and then shares their location with friends who are all converging at a person’s house.

While on the trip, the passenger opens YouTube to watch a video to kill some time. An ad for a local business related to their shared location could pop up at just the right moment directing the viewer to a shop near their destination.

At the same time, there is the perennial consumer fear that Google’s knowledge of where they are could be viewed as invasive. But the clear opt-in of Location Sharing could diminish that concern, somewhat, depending on how subtle or overt any ads during their trip.

For Google, the Shared Location feature is less about being able to serve ads in a more anticipatory and precise way; ultimately, by maintaining its mapping dominance, by keeping users locked in its walled garden for longer periods, and by accessing specific details about the patterns created from consumers’ location history, the search giant gets an even bigger prize: the data associated with Google Maps usage that will inform its targeting capabilities for all the times when people are not on-the-go.

About The Author
David Kaplan David Kaplan @davidakaplan

A New York City-based journalist for over 20 years, David Kaplan is managing editor of GeoMarketing.com. A former editor and reporter at AdExchanger, paidContent, Adweek and MediaPost.