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Google Maps Is Ready to Transform the World of Superapps: A Skift Deep Dive

Dennis Schaal
Google Maps Is Ready to Transform the World of Superapps: A Skift Deep Dive

If you live in the West and parts of Asia and Africa, you take the Google Maps app everywhere you go, stuffed in a pocket or clutched in a hand. And its utility is indeed on the mark: Need to navigate to work or somewhere else in a car or train or on foot? Just whip out the Google Maps app, and let it transport you from Point A to B and C.

Likewise, if you own a restaurant, bar, spa, beauty supply store, tourist attraction, event venue, or hotel, or offer services to any of these sectors, you’ll want to have a Google business listing, which gets you into the Google Maps app for discovery purposes. After all, consider that “near me” searches on Google Maps grew 150 percent over the prior year, Google parent Alphabet’s chief financial officer Ruth M. Porat said at an investor conference in early 2018.

Like Tencent-owned WeChat and, to a lesser extent Meituan in China, as well as Grab in Southeast Asia, many are pointing to Google Maps, with its more than 1 billion users, as the next ubiquitous, all-encompassing superapp. In other words, a superapp can do it all, or nearly everything, relatively speaking, and obviates the need to call up specialty apps to perform specific tasks.

Need your Chicago Transit, Uber, or Yelp apps to see if your train is delayed, book a rideshare, or reserve a table for a Saturday night repast? Not really. The Google Maps app has you basically covered on all these fronts — and many more.

Our reporting finds that Alphabet is already generating several billion dollars annually from Google Maps, an amount that isn’t yet material to the company’s financial results. But although officials state they are taking a leisurely approach to monetizing Google Maps, which is a core part of Alphabet’s search business, revenue is picking up at a healthy pace as Google experiments with new local ad formats within Google Maps. As Google Maps gets around to targeting more verticals, the only thing that might stand in its way from becoming a ubiquitous superapp may be users’ mobile behavior and regulators looking to break up big tech.

Superapps are having a signature moment, although mostly in Asia. The WeChat app, for example, has evolved into a quasi-operating system in China, dominating messaging and file sharing, and its mini programs — currently more than 1 million of them — serve as a portal for 200 million users daily to the wider economy, with virtually every major brand having a presence.

Speaking in a phone interview using the WeChat app from a Grab taxi in Singapore, Andrew Collins, CEO of Chinese digital agency Mailman Group, said the best way to understand what WeChat means for Chinese consumers is “you don’t really get very far without using the product. If you got up at eight o’clock, you’d be using it by 8:05. Then, you’d be subsequently using it every five minutes for the rest of the day.”

Also in China, the Meituan app vies for superapp status as it offers food delivery, hotel booking, group buying, movie tickets, and myriad other services while it faces off against rival Alibaba.

For example, Meituan announced that it sent 2 million visitors to various tourist attractions in China on one day, April 6, during a three-day holiday period. The most popular attraction was Gucun Park in Shanghai, which saw 40,000 tickets processed, typically when visitors scanned a QR code at the entrances.

A Grab taxi. Photo courtesy Bloomberg.

Meanwhile, Southeast Asia’s Grab, which focuses on local customization of its services in the eight countries it operates in within the region, has an explicit superapp strategy. It provides every transportation mode you can imagine from taxis to bike shares and tuk-tuk three wheelers (Philippines, Cambodia and Myanmar only), as well as food, grocery and package delivery, payments, micro-lending services, and car insurance. In the Philippines, customers can even hire a Grab driver to stand in line to gain entrance into an event, or do some personal shopping.

Grab’s acquisition of Uber’s Southeast Asia business in 2018 was a strategic game-changer.

“So I think before the Uber acquisition, we would have viewed ourselves as more of a traditional ridehailing company like a Lyft, an Uber or Didi, but after our merger with Uber, we were able to quickly pivot to what we call the superapp strategy,” said Melanie Lee, a Grab spokeswoman, based in Singapore. “That’s where we use ridehailing as the underlying service to grow our other verticals. So from ridehailing, you can do parcel delivery, you can do food delivery, you can do grocery delivery. And at the same time, it also gave us, I guess, the bandwidth to double down on things like financial services, which is a huge market in Southeast Asia.”

Google Maps Opportunity

So what about the Google Maps app? Is it likewise on a path toward being that essential, omnipresent utility, or achieving superapp status?

Google rightfully sees a gigantic opportunity in local search and Google Maps, which work in unison, but you won’t hear Alphabet officials articulating a superapp strategy for Google Maps. To Google, which some people feel is often an engineering-driven company, the focus is on easing consumer pain points.

“We’re still very invested in the core user need of helping people get from place to place in the best way possible,” Dane Glasgow, vice president, product, for Google Maps, told Skift. “For example, last October, we launched a suite of new features to help people better plan, prepare, and navigate their daily commute. But we’re also seeing that our users are looking to Google Maps for more than just navigation. They’re using it to explore the world around them. To address that need, we recently revamped our Explore tab and introduced a number of new ways to help people more easily find things to do and places to eat, wherever they are in the world.”

[For more of Google’s take on its Google Maps strategy, see our email question and answer interview with Google’s vice president of product, Google Maps, Dane Glasgow, below.]

In travel and related areas, through the Google Maps app, you can now search and book hotels; find tours, attractions, and events; get walking and driving directions, and train-delay notifications on your morning commute; book an Uber; make restaurant reservations through OpenTable, Resy, or dozens of other services; and get companies including DoorDash to deliver your meatball parmesan. (Flight booking, which is a different use case than near-me-oriented tasks, is desktop only in Google Maps.)

For businesses, such as the SLS Las Vegas Hotel & Casino, that opt in through their Google business listing, users can now message them to find out the property’s proximity to the Strip, for example, or get information on the best way to book a room. In both cases, after messaging the hotel one Tuesday morning with such questions, I received replies within three minutes one time, and seven minutes the next. One glitch, however, is that the property answered me one time in Dutch instead of my native language, English.

But even beyond navigation and travel, the Google Maps app is becoming fairly comprehensive, as well. Through its Explore tab, the Google Maps app on your phone offers everything from information about grocery stories and dry cleaning to health and wellness, car dealerships, electronics, and a couple of dozen additional categories.

Need a nail or spa appointment? Google Maps has an overview of local massage or spa businesses, enables you to read reviews and ratings, call the company, get directions, or save the listings for further consideration. A For You tab might show you romantic restaurants and bars for first dates, or a local car dealer offering leasing deals. You can browse top-rated electronics stores near your location for computer overhauls, sort by relevance or distance, zero in on establishments that you previously visited, or filter to view only the businesses that are currently open.

In short, despite some obvious holes, such as peer-to-peer messaging and payment options — both of which WeChat has, for example — Google Maps has the potential to be the superapp that never quits as it keeps making inroads into consumers’ daily habits as it learns their behaviors.

Suffice it to say that Google, with its vast resources, including computing power, engineering prowess, grip on search habits and data analysis, seemingly has all the time in the world, barring regulatory interference, to add and refine more services to win market share for its increasingly all-pervasive Google Maps app.

Speaking of resources, Google Maps added 110 million buildings, all drawn algorithmically, in the first half of 2018. That’s a tough urban landscape to climb for competitors.

The Next SuperApp or Not?

Experts we interviewed across a wide range of businesses were divided on whether Google Maps is already a superapp, on the road to becoming one, or whether the full-service, superapp model, which is taking hold in China and Southeast Asia, would ever work in the West.

Everyone, though, agreed that Google Maps offers a vast array of services, and has the potential to add so many more currently missing puzzle pieces.

Travis Katz, vice president of product at Ctrip-owned Skyscanner, said the Google Maps app is “moving in the superapp direction” with its wide assortment of services, including attraction booking, restaurant reservations, and hotel rates via metasearch, but “is not there yet.”

“The real battle in mobile is building habits and frequency of behavior,” said Katz, who added that Google is on the path toward superapp status because people open Google Maps “all the time.”

Google is very aware of the potential value of its Google Maps app.

After all, Think With Google found late last year that “84 percent of Americans are shopping for something at any given time,” and 90 percent of these consumers who use their mobile phones to shop aren’t sure what brand they are looking for when beginning the shopping process for a certain item.

“I’ve always felt Maps is a tremendous asset we have,” said Google CEO Sundar Pichai during an earnings call with analysts in July. “And we have really focused on the user side of things, and we will continue to do so because the growth is very, very high. So we see a lot of headroom. And — but as their experience is — we get a better understanding of it, we are developing our views on how we can bring monetization experiences. And so these are all steps in that direction. But we’ll take it slowly, and we’ll continue to evolve it here.”

The combination of local discovery and mobile device usage is very powerful. “Local mobile searches are growing faster than mobile searches for us and have increased by almost 50 percent in the last year alone,” Pichai said. “And we are continuing to invest in building a local experience that benefits merchants, users and advertisers.”

Pichai noted that Google is testing new ad formats, such as Promoted Places and Place Page ads in Google Maps, as a way to explore “the commercial opportunities around Maps.”

But despite the unhurried commercialization approach toward Google Maps, Alphabet is likely already making considerable money from the platform. Although for Alphabet, the revenue may not be material yet.

In fact, along with platforms such as Search, Android, Google Play, and YouTube, Alphabet characterizes Google Maps a core product. When you see third-party companies using Google Maps in their own consumer sites, then realize that Google has been monetizing it since the launch of Google Maps APIs in 2005. According to its pricing chart and after a $200 initial credit, Google charges businesses $7 for every 1,000 calls in the first 100,000, and then $5.60 per 1,000 calls when volumes reach 100,000 to 500,000. For a business using Google Maps, these charges can add up fast.

For example, in Uber’s initial public offering prospectus released last week, the company disclosed that it paid Google, whose parent Alphabet is a major investor in the ridesharing company, $58 million for mapping services in the three years ending December 31, 2018.

“We rely upon certain third parties to provide software for our products and offerings, including Google Maps for the mapping function that is critical to the functionality of our platform,” Uber wrote. “We do not believe that an alternative mapping solution exists that can provide the global functionality that we require to offer our platform in all of the markets in which we operate.”

Google Maps has to deal with GPS signals bouncing off buildings in urban areas. Photo courtesy of Google.

Google doesn’t disclose its revenue from Google Maps. But the company does say that in 2018, Google generated 70.7 percent of its Google segment revenue from Google properties, including Google.com, Gmail, Google Play, YouTube, and Google Maps, although the company doesn’t break out Google Maps’ contribution. But, as Pichai pointed out, Google has been taking its sweet time and is still not push more advertising within Google Maps in a rigorous way. Although local search ads appear in Google Maps, the company has not gone full bore with additional commercialization that might jam the user experience.

One analyst, who declined to be identified, guessed that Alphabet’s advertising revenue from Google Maps — excluding distribution-like revenue from the Google Maps API — was likely $3 billion to $4 billion in 2018, and would be on pace to increase 25 percent to 30 percent annually over the next three years.

Google Maps is generating a lot of location-based ads from local businesses, the analyst said, and revenue from Google Maps ads could reach around $8 billion by 2021.

Potential superapp or not, the emerging Google Maps business model diverges a bit from those of Meituan and Grab, which operate many of their own businesses. For example, Meituan counts on some 600,000 drivers to offer restaurant meals and grocery delivery, group buying, hotel booking, movie tickets, and other local services. While Google is largely an advertising business, relying on third parties for fulfillment, Meituan operates some of these businesses itself.

“I think if Google was run by the people who run WeChat or Alibaba, they’d say ‘Let’s pick off the revenue opportunity for all those things and bring them in-house,’” said Katz of Skyscanner.

A food delivery courier for Meituan in China’s Heilongjiang province. Courtesy of Imaginechina

But there are tradeoffs between the advertising and transaction models to consider. Advertising can be a high-margin business without all of the infrastructure and customer support requirements and liabilities that usually come with an e-commerce business. Google operates a hotel metasearch business, accessible in Google Maps, but it doesn’t run any hotels or need to hire drivers for ridesharing services. On the other hand, although the transaction model may trigger higher costs, it also enables a company to control the entire customer experience, and may involve high volumes, and a larger market share.

Many of these existing and emerging superapps will undoubtedly evolve and feature a mixture of business models.

Some people in the travel industry, in particular, fear that Google, through its flights and hotels price-comparison businesses, will pick off and crush travel industry competitors, many of which are large advertising partners for Google.

“I think it will become a travel superapp,” said Rod Cuthbert, the founder of tours and activities firm Viator, referring to Google Maps. “That’s frighteningly inevitable. Its flights and hotels, and search for transport options are fantastic.”

Cuthbert is a former CEO of Rome2Rio, which specializes in showing consumers how to combine diverse transportation modes such as planes, trains and ferries, to get to their destinations. Interestingly, Google last year began adding similarly situated “mixed-mode commutes” to the Google Maps app.

While the Google Maps app may do a fantastic job as it focuses on key areas such as navigation, including people’s mass-transit commuting, it won’t necessarily do as good a job in other areas. You can make an argument, for example, that the Foursquare, Yelp, SeatGuru, or your local transit app may have some content or features that are better for specific things than Google Maps.

“Specialists might do a more complete job, but the general public may not be able to discern the difference,” Cuthbert said.

Ellis Connolly, senior vice president of sales at Zingle, which provides text messaging solutions to hotels, including Hyatt, thinks Google Maps already is “the superapp of the West,” and acknowledges it can be even more powerful if it captures more communications between businesses and consumers. Zingle’s software enables its hotel clients to handle messaging in the Zingle platform when such messaging is enabled in Google’s business listings.

“I think Google has been slowly doing things in travel for years,” Connolly said. “They have all the content to be a superapp, and can connect hotels to Maps and retail.”

Not everyone agrees that Google Maps will become a superapp, or even if these do-it-all platforms that perform so well in Asia can translate to the West.

Melanie Lee of Grab explained that superapps initially took off in China and Southeast Asia because most people didn’t have smartphones, but wielded mobile phones with lower memory that couldn’t handle multiple apps deftly. A single app, such as WeChat in China or Grab in Southeast Asia made a lot more sense, she added.

“The difference between Southeast Asia and China is that Southeast Asia is 11 different countries,” Lee said, noting that Grab currently operates in eight of them. “It’s different languages and different cultures so we have to ultra-localize or really tailor service to each market.”

So the Grab app offers tuk-tuk three-wheeler rides in the Philippines, Cambodia and Myanmar while in Singapore users might book 40-seat buses. On-demand grocery delivery is available from Grab in Indonesia and Thailand, and GrabAssistant, where customers can hire people to stand in line for them, is currently available in the Philippines only.

GrabBike is up and running in Vietnam and Indonesia, “but you won’t find it in Singapore or Thailand or the Philippines, for example,” Lee said. “So it’s very localized. So we call ourselves the regional superapp.

Grab plans to launch healthcare services next year, Lee said, after setting up a joint venture with a Chinese vendor.

Lee doesn’t see superapps necessarily translating to the West.

“One of the things about Chinese people is that they love cluttered websites,” Lee said. “If you go to any website in China, a news website, it’s full of text. But to a Western audience that is ugly. Right? But that’s still the same way. That hasn’t changed. So I think user behavior is something that’s so difficult and so ingrained to kind of shift. It’s the same way if you look at Australia, where Fintech hasn’t caught on because credit cards are so ubiquitous. So I think the concept of having multiple apps installed in your phone and using them for different services like DoorDash for food, Uber Eats for delivery, I think that’s so ingrained. I don’t really see that changing.”

In July, Google disclosed that the fastest-growing markets for Google Maps were Indonesia, India, and Nigeria, with each growing users more than 50 percent year-over year.

Lee said Grab isn’t feeling any heat in the region from Google Maps, and in fact the two companies are partners so you can book a Grab ride from Google Maps.

“Google Maps is a completely different proposition,” Lee said. “We work with Google. They are a great partner. We don’t really view them as competition per se. Because the reason people open Google Maps as an app is a very different reason than why people open the Grab app.”

Andrew Collins of the Mailman Group is another skeptic about superapps translating to Western behaviors, noting that consumer expectations are so different when considering China and the United States, for example.

“In China, everyone rolls the dice on these bigger ecosystems,” Collins said. “There’s such a different expectation of what you want from a product.”

Collins sees convergence as an overriding trend in China when it comes to huge consumer markets. “China has a trend of convergence, as opposed to the West,” Collins said. “That’s sort of where it’s evolved. In China, you’ve got the BAT. The Baidu, Alibaba, and Tencent ecosystems that dominate the landscape. Any product that’s used today in any sort of mass consumption is owned by one of those three companies.”

A consumer scans a QR code using WeChat Wallet.

Regarding the power and reach of Tencent’s WeChat, Collins points to Chinese bike-sharing company MoBike, which had a popular standalone app and became an early adopter of WeChat mini-programs.

“They had a standalone app, which was super popular,” Collins said, referring to MoBike. “Everyone used it. You’re talking about hundreds of millions of people. When they launched their mini-program within the WeChat system to replace their other app — or to offer an alternative — that became the dominant app to access those bikes. It actually left the standalone app, the main app, and everyone went to the WeChat mini-program app to do it.”

The Platform Trend

Becoming a full-service platform or app, in travel and outside it, is certainly becoming, if not a trend, the ambition of some brands. One of the latest advocates of that approach is Malaysia-based AirAsia, which already offers flights, activities, visas, travel insurance and other services, and vows to become a full-service online travel agency. Through its app, the airline could also offer flights from competing airlines, hotels via an Expedia partnership, and logistics services to get started with its ambitious vision.

Whether AirAsia can make good on its goals is another matter, and AirAsia CEO Tony Fernandes has acknowledged that the results will hinge on the airline’s quality of execution.

Facebook, which already offers a panoply of social-sharing, news and advertising services, is planning on increasing the integration of its WhatsApp and Facebook messaging services, Instagram and Facebook platforms, and to become more of a peer-to-peer private messaging platform. Comparisons to WeChat have been making the rounds, but it’s unclear exactly where a revamped Facebook would be headed.

Comparisons to WeChat, though, only go so far, according to Andrew Collins of Mailman Group. “I’ll tell you that I always have debates with other Americans, particularly, about WhatsApp,” Collins said. “And they rave about how good WhatsApp is. It’s such a bad product. It’s slow. It’s often unreliable. It’s so limited in the functionality. There are so many other meatier elements to WeChat that allow you to do so much more.”

Then there are established online travel agencies, such as China’s Ctrip and Bellevue, Washington-based Expedia, which offer the gamut of travel services, including flights, lodging, rail, car rentals, package vacations, tours and activities, cruise, and travel insurance. Ctrip, TripAdvisor, and Booking Holdings provide dining and reservations services, and have the potential to branch out more broadly.

The Way Google Sees It

While some apps, such as Southeast Asia’s Grab, talk straightforwardly about their superapp strategy, Google does not discuss its own mission in that way. Instead, Google views itself as being focused on solving huge and complicated problems for users. And despite the fact that Alphabet has a market cap of roughly $833 billion and knows how to commercialize virtually every column on a web page or tiny screen, the company is still in many ways engineering-driven as it deploys its mammoth and sophisticated tech resources “to organize the world’s information, make it universally accessible and useful,” as Alphabet CFO Porat characterized the company’s mission last year.

On the problem-solving front, consider some of these Google Maps initiatives that the company rolled out or tested over the last year or so.

One of the thorniest problems when using Google Maps or other navigation solutions for walking directions is figuring out exactly where the user is located and which direction to start walking in. This is especially so in urban areas where the accuracy of GPS data can be skewed by signals ricocheting off buildings.

Using a combination of a visual positioning service, Street View, machine learning, and augmented reality, the Google Maps app is testing overlaying big arrows atop the blue dots that plot walking directions to desired destinations, such as a museum or restaurant. The arrows inform the user clearly which direction to begin walking in.

Mass transit information is a priority for Google Maps, and last October a Commute tab began providing alternative routes, and notifications about delays and other impediments to getting to work or back home on time. Users can personalize the Commute tab, specifying modes of transport, times of day, and whether they want to receive notifications about delays and disruptions.

Google found from its historical Maps data that North America commuters average the equivalent of a full day of commuting every month; commuters in 25 North American cities told Google their commute times during rush hours can take 60 percent longer than expected when things go awry. So easing the pain of this problem is a priority for the brains behind the Google Maps app.

During that commute, whether in a car, mass transit or on foot, Google Maps now features access to Spotify, Apple Music and Google Play Music so consumers don’t have to break out new apps to listen to Billie Eilish or catch their favorite podcast.

The revamped Explore tab in the Google Maps app not only shows dining spots, in addition to attractions and events, but sometimes a Foodie list may pop up, highlighting the trendiest restaurants that people in the know are visiting.

Personalization, of course, is key, and a feature alongside a restaurant’s ratings called “See your match” tosses a percentage at you calculating the likelihood, based on restaurants you’ve previously rated, whether there is a 70 percent or merely a 30 percent chance that you will like the eatery in question.

Of course, there are plenty of options to order food delivery, or even pre-order from a restaurant from the Google Maps app.

For Big Daddy’s restaurant, a burger joint on Park Avenue South in Manhattan, customers can make a reservation using OpenTable through the Google Maps app, but also can opt to pre-order their food for either takeout or in-restaurant dining. That service comes from Allset, which has integrated with Google Maps, according to Allset CEO Stas Matviyenko.

Matviyenko said customers using the feature pay in advance, and the restaurant staff typically starts working on their orders about five minutes before their projected arrival. Customers can pay for the services using major credit cards, Google Pay, or Apple Pay but have to navigate outside the Google Maps app experience to complete their orders.

He said the service is available for some 2,000 restaurants in 11 U.S. cities.

It’s a Map

The Google Maps app certainly has all the pieces to pursue a superapp strategy, and its wide array of services, from navigation and restaurants, to hotels and shopping, can keep consumers busy and buying from dawn to dusk and back again.

And, the Google Maps app is undoubtedly a huge money generator for Google as it distributes its maps to third parties, and slowly begins to monetize more maps real estate with pins, placements, and services.

But one inherent limitation, as mammoth as is the opportunity, is that Google Maps is map- and location-based. It’s mostly about discovery and services “near me,” or getting from here to there. It’s no accident, for example, that flight search isn’t yet part of the Google Maps app because unless you are at the airport, you probably wouldn’t need to always consult a map when trying to figure out which airline to fly from New York to London. Although sometimes a map would indeed be useful if the user is unfamiliar with the geography.

In that regard, there are so many services that aren’t ideally positioned for takeoff from a map. Would the Google Maps app support micro-lending services like the Grab app does? What about homeowners’ insurance? Consumers wouldn’t think of turning to these services on a Google Map unless they were near a retail outlet offering such commerce.

And while consumers in China or the Philippines might expect and relish an app that can do just about anything for them, it’s debatable whether Western consumers are looking for a similar do-it-all application — especially when there is a backlash in some quarters against big tech. With mobile screens relatively small, and the prospect that specialty apps can be more feature-rich because a superapp has to necessarily split its attention, superapps may not have universal appeal.

But that won’t stop Google from making mountains of money from an exquisite tool whose appeal and convenience is habit-forming and may be just too hard to resist.

On the other hand, John Peters, a former general manager of digital strategy and business development for mapping company Rand McNally, argued that Google Maps is already an integral part of people’s lives.

“I do think it’s already a superapp,” said Peters, adding that Rand McNally’s mapping initiatives were focused on truckers, recreational vehicles, and things like HazMat locations. “If Google Maps disappeared tomorrow, I think there would be anarchy,” Peters said.

Peters said Google Maps makes life “easier” and “less stressed,” giving users a heads-up on traffic woes, or informing them whether a store is open or closed.

Another sign that Google Maps is already a superapp is because of how frequently people use it,” Peters argued. “If you need something twice a day or more, it’s as important as tooth brush,” Peters said.

Calling it the “de facto standard,” in terms of how widely Google Maps is used by third-party companies, Peters marveled at its “front-end simplicity combined with an incredibly complicated back end.”

Alphabet considers Google Maps to be a tremendous asset and a core search product for the company, although officials emphasize they are taking a deliberate approach to additional monetization as they test various new ad formats.

“It’s Google so don’t think they are not benefiting from it already with all that data,” Peters said.

Q&A With Dane Glasgow, Google Maps Vice President of Product

Skift: Can you tell me about your philosophy as it relates to building Google Maps? Do you intend it to be a superapp that allows consumers to do just about anything, or is your vision limited to features people would naturally do in a map? What are you focus areas for Google Maps?

Dane Glasgow: The question we always ask ourselves whenever developing a new product is, “How does this help people get things done?” We hear from our users regularly — whether it’s in our UX studies, on social media, or from our passionate community of Local Guides — and from these conversations, we’re able to identify where Google Maps can make the most impact in solving everyday problems.

We’re still very invested in the core user need of helping people get from place to place in the best way possible. For example, last October, we launched a suite of new features to help people better plan, prepare, and navigate their daily commute. But we’re also seeing that our users are looking to Google Maps for more than just navigation. They’re using it to explore the world around them. To address that need, we recently revamped our Explore tab and introduced a number of new ways to help people more easily find things to do and places to eat, wherever they are in the world.

Skift: How are you thinking about connecting users and businesses on Google Maps?

Glasgow: It’s a great question. From a consumer perspective, we’re focused on helping people make faster, more informed decisions about which business to visit, and ultimately helping them complete whatever journey or task they set out to do. Our business profiles show a variety of helpful information, from the basics you’d expect to see — things like a business name, address, website, and phone number — but also crucial details such as when a place tends to be the most crowded, or how long the lines are at any given time. Another great example of this is Your Match, a numeric score that shows you how likely you are to enjoy a particular restaurant based on your own unique tastes and preferences, so you can quickly make a decision about where to go.

To help merchants reach more customers, they can use Google My Business, a free tool to manage their online presence across Search and Maps. They can edit their business information, publish posts to promote a special event or offer, and reply to reviews. They can even message directly with customers right from the Google My Business app.

Skift: It appears that you’ve taken a deliberate, thoughtful approach to adding ads in Google Maps. However, are there other ways that you’ve been working to monetize Google Maps that people might not know about?

Glasgow: Google Maps has been a monetized product since we launched Google Maps APIs (now Google Maps Platform) and introduced local search ads in Maps. We’re always looking for ways to showcase great businesses and brands in ways that enhance the overall experience for our users.

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