You’ve probably seen a lot of talk this week about Google Maps being available at gas station pumps. As usual, some of the local searcharati think this is another game-changing move on Google’s part.
As usual, I think it’s not.
Let’s think this through
1a.) According to the story, the Maps display will show local businesses and landmarks chosen by the gas station owner. “Eventually” the hope is that a motorist can just type in an address and get directions. So, if all I can do now is see the gas station owner’s favorite restaurants and fishing holes, this product is dead on arrival.
1b.) With all due respect to gas station owners, when did they become the arbiter of what businesses and landmarks are most important?
2.) Have you seen gas stations advertising on TV lately? I have. Do you know what they’re advertising? How quickly you can get in and out and back on the road. Think about it: Every gas station advance in recent years has been aimed at speeding things up: pay at the pump, pay with a “speedpass” (or whatever they call it), etc. Sitting at the pump and doing some local searches will do nothing but slow people down. I don’t know about you, but the minute I see the guy in front of me playing on Google Maps while I’m waiting to fill up will be the last time I use that gas station.
3.) The great thing about asking for directions at a gas station is that I can walk in and ask a human without having to spend a dime. What if I don’t need any gas? Will Google Maps still work if I’m not using the pump to buy gas? And see #3 above — how will the guy behind me feel if I’m taking his spot at the pump even though I don’t need gas?
Bottom line: Using Google Maps at the gas station will be more of an inconvenience than anything.
I’m sorry, but this seems like another desperate attempt to get more traction for Google Maps, not unlike the Local Business Referrals program announced a few months back. Google has done some smart things in marketing Google Maps — like getting on the iPhone. That’s what will help Google Maps pull away from the competition.