As oil prices inch toward $100 a barrel and the price of gasoline is once again rising towards $4.00/gal, it appears that Google will step into the breach and offer stress relief via directions.
The AP reports in Latest Additive at Gas Pumps: Google that “As part of a partnership to be announced Wednesday, the online search leader will dispense driving directions at thousands of gasoline pumps across the United States beginning early next month. ” They also note: “Unlike most of Google’s services, this one won’t include ads bringing the company income. But participating retailers will be able to make extra money from other merchants that offer coupons on the service.”
It is not clear whether this move includes Google Coupons and their monetization or printed coupons from other local merchants managed by the pump provider.
One assumes that if it were Google they would use their existing Coupon infrastructure for coupon creation. Clearly, the presence of Google Maps and Coupons at the pump could dramatically increase visibility of both Maps and Coupons and push their coupon effort to the forefront. Minimally, if they are not Google Coupons but those provided by the pump vendor, it provides a huge visibility boost to Maps. Perhaps Google has found another ValPak like partner to create additional coupon inventory for driving internet and mobile traffic?
According to Information Week “While of limited use to motorists, the initial service gives (the gas) retailers the tools to enter marketing deals with local businesses. Besides offering maps to locations, gas station owners could also offer coupons to try to drive traffic to local merchants.”
While it seems that Google will not be monetizing coupons, it is still not clear whether tbey will become a source for coupons for Google Maps.
The new ability to search Google Coupons offers an intriguing glimpse through the window into the world of Google’s coupon efforts. Coupons have the potential to both drive local usage and further monetize local business data for Google. With internet search, Coupons could provide a new interface/access point for visitation and searching of local business data. It is easy to imagine a link at the top of the main Google search page or a link for coupons in the Local OneBox results that bargain hunters used regularly. With any number of web 2.0 technologies, Google could spread coupons across the internet as well. In fact the ready availability of coupons on Google might broaden the use of coupons in general.
Coupons could also provide a means of monetizing Goog-411(and SMS & Google Maps) service by providing pay per call coupons directly to your cell phone. Ad supported free 411 services (like Jingle 411) are intrusive. A service though that offered an optional, relevant coupon to a 411 inquiry would probably be welcomed by its users.
However, since Google Coupons has been introduced, why has Google been so reticent to promote coupons? And how successful has Google been at gathering coupons since the programs inception? Just how many coupons are there and how many were created by the small businesses using Google’s Local Business Center?
Google Coupons are one of the great underpromoted features of Google Maps. It came, we saw and it didn’t conquer. Not because it couldn’t but it just seems to be one of those Google technologies that is languishing in the backwaters of some engineer’s 20% project.A recent query at the Google Maps for Business Group about why ValPak’s coupons were larger than his coupons got me to poking around coupons once again.What I found was a (buried) upgraded local like interface that allows a users to search for all coupons in a given area or all coupons in a certain industry in an area. For example you may search on “all coupons in Olean NY” or “restaurant coupons in Buffalo NY.Why coupons continue to be the poor step child in Google’s local arsenal is beyond me. Google could easily provide an interface to allow websites to embed these coupons either via an api, rss feed or an iframe (like Maps). This would at least offer the coupons some visibility and a way out of the dark basement of Google Maps.In September the InsideGoogle Blog noted a slew of new Google Coupon domains including Google-Coupons.com and CouponGoogle.com are now registered and controlled by Google. Perhaps this new (maybe its not new but it is obviously hard to find) interface upgrade and the new domains portend the first step in rolling out a more prominent coupon program.