It’s been another typical day at the office; thankfully, the day is now over and it’s time to go home. My drive-home routine is the same as it has been for almost two decades; I know every route and shortcut there is to avoid traffic and get back home with the least amount of stress or wasted time. Still, even though every possible route is deeply ingrained in my brain, for the past several months I have not dared to start the trek home without firing up my favorite GPS map app on my smartphone. Believe me, I really do not need the app’s maps or turn-by-turn guidance for a trip I have done thousands of times; what I crave is the unique, real-time information the app provides on traffic en route.
The app is called Waze (clever name, pronounced “ways”), and like all great apps, this one is free. Crowdsourcing has hooked me on Waze! Through Waze users, the app provides real-time traffic info that seems to be faster and more accurate than any other traffic report resource even all those helicopter dudes on AM radio. Waze users automatically report their driving speed using the phone’s GPS triangulations features, and if they hit a slowdown, they simply click on a variety of alert buttons, instantly transmitting the traffic alert to all other users not yet snarled in the traffic jam. Waze uses this data to create maps that incorporate real-time traffic reports. So, before I leave work I know which route to take on my way back home. With Waze, I get the data I need the moment I need it, without waiting for a traffic report on the radio to come around.
Waze alerts are 100% generated by users. These are not limited to just slowdowns and traffic jams alerts, but can also cue us in on construction delays, speed cams, accidents on the road, etc. The app provides free turn-by-turn navigation, and its maps are updated with real-world data as their users drive around town gathering road info that is automatically relayed back to Waze. This allows the Israeli-based company to constantly improve its maps all over the world.
There are plenty of mapping and GPS apps available on smartphones today, with tech giants like Google, Bing and even Apple itself competing for the space on our phones. While many of these are valid alternatives, I have found that the social component of real-time crowdsourcing data on Waze makes it a better option. Waze has created a community of 45 million users (12 to 13 million of those are active at any time), which has differentiated it from the pack.
Seems like I’m not the only one who has taken notice, as it’s recently been rumored that Facebook wants to buy Waze for a reported $1 billion. (UPDATE: Google has now offered $1 billion for the company.) Facebook is probably not looking at its user count to justify the humongous price tag, for Facebook adds the total amount of Waze users each and every quarter. No, the answer probably lies in Facebook’s interest in taking Waze’s mapping data and platform and turning it into a local search engine that will allow Facebook to monetize the data with its advertising might. Facebook will connect our search history, likes and friends’ recommendations with mapping data in order to provide targeted ads. So far, mobile users have not embraced advertising intrusion on their phones, and companies are finding lots of pushback on traditional advertising mediums. However, it’s easy to imagine how Facebook, who already knows a heck of a lot about our “likes” and “dislikes,” could deliver real-time coupons to us on our phones when we drive near one of their advertisers. This is perhaps a solution that both advertisers and consumers will be willing to embrace.
The GPS-based advertising Promised Land has been touted for several years. I remember several conferences and tech articles from members of our industry, foretelling the days when a customer will drive by a dealer, the vehicle’s GPS will report the location back to the manufacturer, and the driver will instantly receive a coupon on his or her navigation screen for an oil change. Many of those future scenarios seem imminent, but to this day we have not seen them come to fruition. Whether the OEs can develop the technology or not still remains to be seen, but one thing is obvious: our vehicles’ navigational systems are missing the social component. According to Greg Sterling of Sterling Marketing Intelligence, “There is a convergence amongst mobile users which is called SoLoMo: Social Local Mobile.” Simply put, we value what our friends recommend when we do local searches on our portable devices.
A Waze-Facebook combined app could excel at this, creating a whole new way of searching for automotive services on the web. Imagine a partnership with your vendors, where they would advertise on Facebook and then deliver a customer who recently searched online for one of their products right to your store with a coupon delivered to their phone when they approached your place of business. Now that’s a future scenario I can’t wait to see!