Google Places is now rolling out a new Offers creation program in the Places Dashboard to accompany the new Google Maps for Android. The product is significantly more robust than the current product and offers a range of creation options. There is an overview and FAQ available the Offers introduction page.
It is now live in my Places Dashboard. Click this image to view a slide show of the creation options:
When you enter the Offers area of the Dashboard old offers are visible but not editable. It appears that older Offers created in the Dashboard will be maintained until their expiration date but can not be updated.
The Offer design interface is very slick and provides simple choices to create the coupon.
Only photos from Google existing library can be used. This is a limitation of your products fall out of the narrow range they have chosen.
You are allowed to limit the total quantity of offers available, the timeframe they are available and whether a user may re-use the coupon. Interestingly the offer can be limited to only certain days of the week.
The management interface shows how often the offer was saved by users and how often it was redeemed.
New offers are currently only appear on Google Maps for Android, Google Offers and Google Wallet apps. As far as I can tell they are not visible on the desktop and have no presence on the iPhone.
An offer can be easily edited after creation to change the expiration or distribution settings in the original offer.
An interesting note in the How it Works area of the Offers area notes that offer is only free during limited-time trial period. (bold mine)
The Google Offers Help files have been updated to reflect the new product.
Limits to the new product:
This product is significantly more robust than the current product. But it does not appear to be available for display in desktop search and the fact that there is no iPhone version limits its use. What Google’s plans are in either area are unclear at the moment.
Also unclear is whether it will remain free in some capacity and when it does move to a paid model how it will be priced. The FQ notes: Currently, you can create offers from within your Google Places account at no cost during this limited time trial period. You will be notified about pricing details before the trial period concludes.
Offers (aka Coupons) have a long and sorry history in the panoply of Google local products. They were introduced to great fanfare in 2008 and then left to whither with little support and less ability to display them. Over the past year Google has been cleaning up inappropriate Offers but they have never made them more visible. This is only a partial step in that direction.
Given their limited availability on the Android product it would appear that Google is moving them away from the desktop and primarily focusing on their use in the mobile environment. Obviously they would be more valuable if they could be crossed marketed from the main search results and available on all mobile platforms. Hopefully that is in the cards.
Given the recent noise about Facebook reintroducing/testing their Offer product, one has to wonder about Google’s timing of this release and whether they will emulate the idea of making the coupon more visible with payment.
When used in a mobile environment and tied to the new patents that Google acquired for indoor location via Wifi one can easily envision a coupon system that could could offer a given coupon when in close proximity to a participating vendor AND close the loop on the sale (with or without the use of electronic payments). Obviously the potential for relevant delivery and knowledge about when the sale is closed opens up a range of revenue analytic possibilities for Google.
On a more short term note we are seeing the Places Dashboard slowly but surely getting a face lift to come under the new integrated Google UI. First the Adwords Express UI update and now Offers. It is clear that the Places Dashboard (and hopefully Places Analytics) are soon slated for updates as well.