Waze, Google and Ecommerce

2 Min Read
Michael Harvey

Knowing the locations for hidden police cruisers may be invaluable information for some speed demons, but is avoiding a ticket worth a billion dollars? Google thinks so.

Actually, it’s more likely that Google knows that Waze, the recently acquired GPS-enabled app that employs crowdsourcing to generate maps with up-to-the-minute traffic information, has much more potential than just alerting its users to the nearest speed trap. With the ability to pull real-time, geo-specific information from its 50 million drivers, Waze may prove to be an ecommerce powerhouse. Here are three ways that Waze could affect the ecommerce landscape:

  1. Location Specific Ads
    With the function to auto-learn frequent routes, Waze knows exactly when you’re headed to the local mall. Wouldn’t that be a perfect time to send you a 25% off coupon for “Insert Big Name Department Store Here” and maybe some more for a few other places along your way? According to a survey out earlier this year, the vast majority of smartphone users could be convinced to go shopping, even when they had no plans of doing so, if they received deals for spots nearby. It’s a no-brainer for Google to incorporate this technology moving forward.
  2. New Levels of Price Comparison
    The app already allows users to post notifications on gas prices in the area and then evaluates that information, highlighting the cheapest options in green. It isn’t a stretch to imagine that this same process could be leveraged for the best values for hotels, groceries, furniture or clothing.
  3. Hyper-Local Maps
    Between man hours and its Street View vehicles, Google spent upwards of $15 billion on mapping the world’s roads. With Waze, the possibility of mapping the rest of the world—the malls, the restaurants, the parks and so on—is comparatively, ridiculously, inexpensive. As in, free (beyond, of course, the 1.3 billion dollar purchase price). Waze is already a hub of user-generated information and, as various social media platforms have taught us, people love to share. Anything and everything. So who’s to say that, down the line, not only could users pinpoint which boutique has the best prices, but also outline directions to the rack in the showroom on which you can find that deeply-discounted dress?

Beyond the specific applications one can imagine for a social-mapping service, Google has clearly recognized a deep but general insight: the map is the interface. For almost all of recorded human history maps, whether they be aboriginal Songlines in Australia or “here there be Dragons!” marine charts from the age of exploration, have been powerful abstractions that convey a tremendous amount of information. For many applications, knowing one’s location in the world in relation to other items of interest—other people, destinations, services—a map is the ideal interface. Google has been a leader in bringing the power of mapping to the wired world, but definitely missed a tempo in their failure to bring forth a social mapping service of their own.

Waze unquestionably contains the framework to power a new direction for future ecommerce innovation.  As we’ve noted before, around one-fifth of ecommerce purchases today are made on a mobile device, a number that has jumped significantly in the past few years and is forecast to continue to grow in the years to come.  With the money that they will make off of the Waze service and the spinoffs it will spawn, Google will probably be able to pay-off any speeding tickets that its employees may garner for the foreseeable future.

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Michael Harvey

Michael Harvey is COO at Corra. He oversees the agency's delivery team, including project management, analysis, and marketing. Michael's 20+ year career has spanned marketing, branding, strategy, product development, operations, and technology. He has held operational roles at the senior executive level for a variety of entities including both startups and established organizations.


Corra is the global digital agency that leading brands and B2B organizations trust to accelerate their growth. Working at the intersection of commerce technology and customer experience strategy, we deliver comprehensive digital solutions that convert and retain customers in the long term.

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