Google Can Disrupt Travel Industry With Their Suite of Products – "Google Travel" On The Cards?
Five years ago, when someone asked “What’s Google famous for?”, the answer would have been unanimously – “their lightning fast search”. Now in 2012, when someone asks the same question, there is no single answer. Google has branched out from being a mere search engine. Google’s expansion is needed and its for good. Google has been acquiring many products in the recent past and integrating it with its suite of existing products.
One industry that Google is clearly keeping close to its heart is – Travel. With its earlier acquisitions – Zagat, Panoramio and ITA Software, it triggered series of thoughts among the industry experts about Google venturing into travel business. Now, with its recent Frommers acquisition, it’s evident that Google is filling up empty slots in the end-to-end travel ecosystem.
We analysed all products of Google and short-listed the products that are relevant to travel industry. Then, we mapped the short-listed products to travel ecosystem and we ended up creating below diagram. Will this be called by Google as “Google Travel” basket? We have to wait and watch. Read on to know more.
1. Trip Search and Planning -
1.1 User can perform a text based search in Google Search (this currently pulls hotel and restaurant reviews from Zagat, very soon – search might show destination details from Frommers)
1.2 User can perform picture based search in Google Goggles. A traveller snaps a picture of an unknown (also known) place and Goggles displays the place details. Google rolled this out in 2009.
1.3 Google Books can serve as a good medium for travel guide reads and purchases.
2. Marketing: Travel companies can advertise their products, service offerings in Google Adwords (PPC – Pay Per Click marketing)
3. Flight Search: Traveller can search for flights using Google Flights product.
4. Hotel Search: Traveller can search for hotels using Google Hotels product (also lists hotel reviews, pictures, room details).
5. Products Missing For Other Sub-Segments: Google Flights and Google Hotels are meta-search engines. Google is missing a product that can be used for searching – Car, Cruise, Rail, Bus and Holiday Packages. When Google comes up with this product, then it can be called as an end-to-end meta search engine for travel industry.
6. Ticket Purchase: User can walk-in to an airport or a hotel or a travel agency office and purchase a ticket using Google Wallet product (mobile payments).
7. Missing Direct Connect Channel: Google doesn’t own any airline, hotel, car etc. So, obviously they do not have a direct connect channel. Who knows, Google might launch Google Airlines in future and might rollout www.gflight.com. In 2005, who would have imagined that Google would be launching a mobile phone?
8. Missing an OTA: Similarly, Google doesn’t have a product that can be called as an online travel agent (OTA).
9. Payment Gateway For Travel Websites: Any direct connect site and online travel agency can integrate Google Checkout as their payment gateway.
10. Missing An Itinerary Management Product: Once a traveller books a ticket, there should be a product that can manage the trip itinerary for the traveller. Many products exist in the industry – TripIt, TripCase etc. Google is missing a product in this space. Apple recently announced the “Passbook” app (itinerary management) for its next version of operating system, iOS 6.
11. During Trip: When a traveller is at hotel / at a destination / on-transit, there are many things a traveller would be doing -
11.1 Share Trip Experience - Google has a list of products that take care of this. YouTube for sharing trip videos, Blogger for writing about the trip, Google+ for sharing pictures with friends, Picasa (recently, Google acquired Picnik and integrated with Google+ and Picasa for better photo management) for editing and managing trip photos.
11.2 Navigation - Google Maps and Google Earth perfectly fit the need.
11.3 Local Deals – Google Offers displays list of all deals in the vicinity of traveller.
11.4 Location Destination Details – Google Places has details about the local shops, malls, restaurants around your area. Now, Places is blended into Google+.
12. Massive Mobile Presence: Last but not the least – ANDROID. All Google products mentioned above in this article have an app in Android Play or a mobile friendly website. Android is a huge facelift for Google in terms of how it powers travel industry. Travellers are increasingly using mobiles in their trip planning / booking stage. A mobile app powered by Google’s own operating system is definitely a big plus.
Summary - Google is slowly filling all slots in the travel ecosystem by deploying various products. The probability is very high for Google to club all products in this article as “Google Travel” in near future. When Apple releases the most expected and hyped “iTravel” app, we predict Google is going to respond with “Google Travel”. There is one very important product of Google that we haven’t depicted in the image above, that is – Google Glass. It is currently in prototype stage and the details are not known, so we couldn’t fit the product in a specific scenario of travel. Glass is a product that has huge potential to impact travel industry. We predict that Google Travel is very real and disruptive. Take another look at the image above that summarizes the power of Google Travel.
Author: Karthick Prabu