Tag Archives: google

Can Facebook REALLY Threaten Google in Search?

Only In The Most Lucrative Categories…

There’s been much speculation lately that Facebook is finally staffing up to take a shot at improving their internal search product, a product that many would agree has been woefully under utilized in the past.  Along with this comes the usual debate around social search:

  • What exactly is social search?
  • How compelling is it, both to users and advertisers?
  • Can it really compete with Google?

The answer to the last questions is ‘No’, and this would be a wonderfully short blog post should that be a complete answer…but it’s not.  Incorporating social signals in search can improve it in a way that is so exciting and compelling that Google has to not only be aware, but deeply concerned by it as well.

Social Influence in Purchase Decisions

For the uninitiated, much of the opportunity (or concern, depending on which side of the fence you sit) around social search has to do with how purchase decisions are influenced by your social connections.  Research has repeatedly shown that friends and family are big influencers in purchase decisions, and the larger the purchase the more these social connections are sought out for advice.

Given the above it’s not surprising so many companies in the larger priced categories such as travel, electronics and automotive have been aggressively experimenting with social media.  But how does this tie in with search?

It’s a Temporal Issue

Think about the last time your friend cornered you and forced you to view the photos from his recent trip to the Caribbean.  You probably enjoyed the first few photos of turquoise inlets and stunning sunsets, but your mind likely wandered around the fourth restaurant photo or the nineteenth beach shot.  The reality is this really isn’t all that relevant to you right now, but it might be very relevant to you the next time you’re planning a vacation.

The key is to aggregate and structure this content in a way that it can easily be retrieved when needed (sound like search yet?).  Companies like TripAdvisor have already built hugely successful businesses on the aggregation of anonymous content, just think how powerful this becomes when it gets plugged into your social graph.

Exhibit from Facebook's S-1 Registration filing

The above is from Facebook’s recent S-1 registration filing, illustrating the deep integration of Facebook’s social graph on TripAdvisor’s core site.  However what’s far more compelling than the main page integration is what happens when you search for a destination in the big white search box at the top of the page and can immediately see which of your friends have been to Paris, Cape Cod or South America.

It’s this social search experience that’s so compelling to consumers, and likely to cause the greatest amount of concern at Google, especially when you consider as much as 15% of Google’s total revenue is rumored to come from the travel industry.  Is it any wonder then that recently there have been rumors flying around regarding Google and Facebook expressing interest in acquiring TripAdvisor.

How is this Relevant to Automobiles?

Let me answer this by posing two questions.

  1. How many Facebook friends do you have?
  2. What cars do each of of them drive?

Question number two is the kicker, and I’ll bet the majority of people can name less than 10% of their friends’ vehicles.  And why should they? It’s really not important unless they’re searching for a new car, at which point it may become highly relevant and important.

Let’s say I’m searching for a new car and interested in finding out more about Infiniti’s G series.  If I type that query into Google I get the following results as part of their social search experience.

Google Social Search results for 'Infiniti G series'

The above social connections are pretty useless to me in my research of new cars to buy, however the following would be immensely useful.

Ideal Social Search Experience

For this to become viable, Google (or Facebook) would need to know one additional piece of data about you: what car you drive.

We think about this alot at C2G as over 1 million people have now entered this exact piece of information into our Galculator, and the volume is growing at a rapid rate.

Travel and Automotive represent two of the biggest advertising categories online.  What are your thoughts on social search?  Do you think Google has anything to worry about with Facebook’s latest moves?

Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Happy Driving!

Google Adds Fuel Cost Calculator to Maps in Europe

Journey Planner

Google Maps Fuel Cost Calculator

While browsing the Internet this weekend I came across this rather startling post from fleet management company FieldLogix about a new feature in Google Maps in Europe that estimates fuel costs for a trip.  What’s startling about this is not the feature itself but the fact that its largely been overlooked despite the potential for broad implications across several industries.

I’ll cover more on this (and why we’re so excited by this new development) in a later post, but for now lets just focus on the details of this new feature. It appears that cost estimates are now part of all the European Google Maps sites and can be found at the bottom of the driving directions along with a link to modify car type as well as fuel grade and price.  If you modify these options Google will save those changes for future routes.

The currency is localized to the country of origin and remains constant regardless of the number of countries traversed in your route.  To illustrate I’ve entered a route from London to Rome in Google Maps UK (see below).

Google Maps cost calculator

You’ll note that the fuel cost for this trip is estimated in UK currency even though the trip crosses multiple countries.  It’s not clear how the average fuel price of 1.26 British Pounds Sterling per litre  is determined but in testing several routes within the UK the same price is applied so I am assuming this is based on a country average.

For comparison purposes, Cost2Drive locates the nearest gas price at the origin of the route and then calculates the cost based on real time gas prices along the route to account for regional variations.  For example a route from Chicago to New York has an average gas price of $3.12 vs $3.17 for a route from Chicago to Nashville.

Cost2Drive calculates cost based on real time gas prices along the route

Additionally, whereas Google’s tool allows for 3 vehicle types Cost2Drive allows you to select the exact vehicle you are driving from a database of over 20,000 cars and trucks so you’ll get far more accurate cost estimates.  Cost2Drive also locates the cheapest gas at refueling points along your route, and for routes over 200 miles displays the cheapest airfare found on Kayak.com.

Toll costs are not included in the calculation even though they can be substantial in Europe, especially if your route includes a Channel crossing which is around 42 pounds ($68) each way if you opt to take the Chunnel.  As an aside, toll cost information is the most requested feature on Cost2Drive and so we’re actively looking at ways to include this information.

Note that Michelin’s mapping product does include toll cost information for routes in Europe.  In fact Michelin deserves a great deal of credit for being a leader in this space however they are severely hampered by an overly cluttered user interface which has been the downfall of many trip planning applications.

It will be very interesting to see where Google takes this feature.  Will it soon appear in US maps? Will their driving directions evolve into more of a trip planning product? As I mentioned I’ll share more of my thoughts on this in a later post, but please feel free to share your own thoughts below.

Happy Driving!