With the (not yet released) Trips app, Google is once again exploring the possibility to expand its business into the travel sector. The app, which has been released for a select few testers, the members of the “Local Guides” program.
In case you didn’t know, the Local Guides program is aimed at expanding the reviews and tips section of Google Maps – more reviews and content gives a better user experience. Google is naturally actively looking to find engaged users, and in return for the reviews, Local Guides get a couple of perks – of which early access to the Trips app is one.
So clearly, Google is exploring some options in the travel business. What reasons does Google have to expand into mobile with the Trips app?
More engagement on Google Maps
The more reviews and information is available on Google Maps, the more indispensable Google Maps becomes for users to find out about their surroundings. The engagement and reviews will happen on Trips, but Google may still automatically add those reviews to Google Maps and/or establish a connection between the two products in another way.
It is quite possible that Trips will be a supplement to Google Maps, since the Maps app is used more for navigation. In the desktop version, Google Maps is very handy for finding out about restaurants, bars and other things in your immediate surroundings. However, on a small mobile screen searching for new places becomes tedious. The Trips app may be a solution for that problem.
Expand on Travel Ad Revenue
Travel is one of the few sectors where Google faces a lot of competition for advertising. There are a huge number of comparison websites which work on affiliate models that find the best flight and hotel deals. There are also huge competitors like Tripadvisor or Yelp who specialise in reviews for things to do and where to eat and drink. Thus, it should actually not come as a surprise that Google is looking to increase its dominance in the travel sector as well.
Google will likely attempt to poach users of these competitors, and thus can cater its travel ads to a more engaged and highly targeted user base.
More Localised Data on each User
Ideally this app is used in real-time – a user searches for things to do around him/her, and then chooses an option. Knowing where the user is currently spending his/her holiday and where exactly the user is going in the immediate surroundings is very valuable information, especially for localized advertising.
Based on the information Google has and is getting from that user, Google can improve its advertisement targeting a lot. Imagine a user is searching for a restaurant for dinnertime – restaurants would be willing to pay good money for the customers’ business, and Google can take advantage of that. Or consider a user searching for the top sights to see in a city. Tourguides would love to have that user purchasing their tour and services – and again, would be willing to pay Google for that new business.
Testing the Waters for own Apps
Granted, Google owns Android, the operating system which actually controls a large chunk of all phones in the world. And Google also has mobile apps for its major products.
But Google does not have many apps which do not originate from a browser product. Trips would be one of the few products which have not already proven successful beforehand and turned into an app afterwards. Although the current trend is moving away from apps and into chat bots, Google nonetheless may want to gain more experience in launching mobile applications.
Google is already present in the travel sector, with Hotel Search and Flight Search already integrated in the search engine results, and, in the case of Hotel Search, can be found on Google Maps as well. Google has a bump in its track record with standalone travel products. Previously, Google experimented with Hotel Finder, a product just for searching hotels. Hotel Finder was phased out though, and in the end, Google integrated the Hotel Finder into their search engine, (fitting hotels are now shown up in the search results). It will be interesting to see whether Trips will face the same fate or become a successful addition on its own.