When you search for a new restaurant near your current location, do you use a search engine or your favorite mapping app?
As in-map searching has grown in popularity, some brands with maps in their apps have begun to see dollar signs. The longer mapping services are able to keep consumers within the walls of their apps, the more opportunities they have to monetize. As a result, the race for the most dynamic mapping app is well underway.
Founded in 2005, Google Maps was one of the first online mapping products available to consumers. When expanding their mapping service, Google paired with a Stanford University team to produce its street view feature. Strapping off-the-shelf cameras onto Chevy Astrovans, teams captured the view from the roads.
In 2007, when TomTom and other online navigation products appeared on the market, Google Maps launched ahead, purchasing and enhancing preexisting maps to improve their navigation. The brand asked employees to map out their hometowns, making sure every roadway and coffee shop was located in its most accurate spot, crafting the interactive mapping service many users now rely on.
Today, Google Maps’ 154.4 million monthly users can search within the app for nearby coffee shops, restaurants, gas stations and more. The service has taken on characteristics of the Google search engine, as it provides local weather and traffic reports. Plus, Google Maps can sync with Google accounts, sending departure notifications to consumers so they can arrive at their destinations on time.
To monetize their platform, Google created local search ads, paid on a cost-per-click basis, to feature nearby businesses. When a user searches for “restaurants near me,” they will see ads that feature local businesses. Assuming the businesses benefit from walk-in traffic, Google local search ads should help local shops grow.
Google-owned Waze is a navigation app that sends consumers notifications for roadkill, cars stopped on the shoulder, police on roads and more. Waze’s gamification encourages users to send live traffic updates, keeping other Wazers up to date when hitting the road.
Bought in 2013, Waze offers a Spotify integration and monetizes with geo-fenced display ads for local businesses while the navigation is in use. Waze, with 25.6 million monthly users, is the expert app for navigating around traffic and avoiding accidents, though it may force consumers to spend more time in the car as it takes users on “roundabout routes through residential neighborhoods.”
Launched in 2012 on iOS 6, Apple Maps had a tough start, initially providing inaccurate GPS locations and incomplete mappings. After working out bugs and fixing crashes, Apple has released seamless integrations, letting users transfer routes from Macbooks to iPads to iPhones.
Similar to other mapping services, Apple Maps allows users to search for nearby restaurants, subway stations and more. Apple Maps offers directions for a variety of transportation methods, though for ride services, it only offers a Lyft integration after removing Uber, sparking a war (we’ll get into this later).
Available in Volvos, Fords, Volkswagens and more, Apple released CarPlay in an effort to create less distracted driving. CarPlay, which pairs a consumer’s iPhone with their car, turns a car navigation screen into an iPhone screen, allowing consumers to stay connected with their phones and focused on driving. Apple CarPlay allows drivers to listen to and view directions seamlessly through Apple Maps.
Apple Maps has slowly improved its usability and touts a benefit they believe their users appreciate: Apple doesn’t sell consumer data. When consumers use Google Maps or other Google services, their actions are linked to their accounts, building profiles that Google uses to make money from third parties through advertising and other monetization methods. Conversely, Apple’s service is free of charge and free of data sales.
Apple Maps, with over 23.3 million monthly users, lets business owners add their businesses to the mapping system, making it easier for consumers to find them. With Apple Maps’ integration with OpenTable and Yelp, consumers can find a restaurant, read reviews and book a reservation all from within the app. Consumers can even research which businesses accept ApplePay.
Uber’s car service, founded in 2009, first gained notoriety in 2011 when it expanded from San Francisco to cities around the world. Uber quickly began partnering with local businesses to deliver ice cream, clothing donations and even kittens.
By the end of 2015, after launching UberPOOL and Uber Eats, Uber had completed more than 1 billion trips for consumers. And by 2017, the brand reached 5 billion trips.
Recently, Uber announced they’d be investing in their own mapping for in-app searches. Google quickly pulled the plug on their partnership with Uber, meaning users can no longer order Uber’s car service in Google Maps. “By removing the Uber booking option from Google Maps, the search giant has effectively demoted Uber to the same standing as Lyft, Gett, Juno, and other competitors,” Fortune reported. It seems the iOS integration of Siri and Uber has also been removed.
Uber hasn’t released too many details about how their mapping may be improving, but the brand announced they’ll spend $500 million to stop the use of Google Maps by encouraging the use of their own. After hiring Brian McClendon away from Google Maps, Uber plans to send out a “fleet of mapping vehicles” to map the United States and Mexico. Uber reported 75 million monthly active riders in 2017, so while monetization efforts for marketers aren’t clear just yet, Uber’s market is one with potential and following.
ComScore’s latest ranking for mobile apps on both iOS and Android lists Google Maps as the fifth most popular app with a 66.9% reach, whereas Apple Maps, Waze and Uber aren’t ranked in the overall top 15 apps. On the Apple App Store, available only to iOS users, Google Maps is ranked in eleventh place while Uber sits at 23rd and Waze takes 34th. Apple Maps isn’t ranked because it comes preloaded on iPhones.
While Google seems to be more focused on monetization efforts through Waze and advertising, Apple Maps may be geared to consumer convenience. And where will Uber’s mapping efforts land? We’re anxious to find out.
The future of navigation may lead to in-map searches, providing everything consumers need in one, central location.