Google's Marissa Mayer recently made the switch from the company's VP of search products to focusing on the company's geo and local products. In a recent interview with Media Beat, Mayer talked a bit about how the location-based service space has gotten off to a slow start (in terms of actual user adoption), as well as some reasons that Google already has some things to offer in Groupon's territory (as you're probably aware, Groupon recently turned down an acquisition offer from Google).
In terms of that slow location-based service adoption, Mayer said, "I think a lot of this means that it's just very early. So it's a very fast moving space. It's very interesting. It's one of the reasons I was really excited to move over and work in this area. But it's just very early, and so I think that we are still experimenting with what are the incentives? What are the rewards? What's the user value proposition? Why should I want to use a location-based service, especially on my phone, because the phone has basically unlocked all of this potential."
"So part of it is, as there's more and more smartphones, I think there will be more and more people using location," she added. "We're already seeing this with Google Maps for Mobile. But I think that as this progresses and people get more deals, offers, better offers, better value, better recommendations on where to go, start meeting up with friends...more users will adopt it."
When you think of location-based services, you might think more about things like Foursquare, Gowalla, SCVGR, etc. but this space is closely tied with the deals space, because ultimately this is going to be one of the main ways to attract users - businesses harnessing services like these to get people in the door.
When we think of deals these days, Groupon of course comes to mind. After news came out of Groupon denying Google's bid, many of us wondered what Google's next move would be. Would they try to acquire one of Groupon's competitors? Would they simply build their own competitor? Mayer reminds us, however, that Google already has some things that could easily compete (and in some ways already do) in this space. It's just a matter of the right integration and implementation of products.
"I think that when you look at our overall suite of services, especially around our advertising, we already have some things that are like this," Mayer said. "We have things like coupons and offer extension ads that allow merchants to basically make offers to our users. So we're looking at how we can take that technology and put it to use, especially in the location space."
Mayer running the show in that area can't be a bad thing. She's got a pretty good track record in her old stomping ground (search). While she didn't exactly rule out the possibility of other acquisitions in this area (in fact Google is likely to continue the acquisition spree of 2010 into the New Year), it's clear that Google does in fact have a number of the pieces of the puzzle in its possession already. It's just a matter of fitting them together in the right ways (much like in the social space).
Groupon CEO Andrew Mason recently called Groupon the savior for small businesses. Some businesses might have given this title to Google back when AdWords came out. While Google is not without its critics, there is no question that the company has already begun placing a great deal more emphasis on local, and is already the go-to place for finding local business info for a lot of users. It stands to reason that Google will be among the big players in both location-based services and deals. At the very least, it's going to be hard to keep Google very far away from the conversation.
Then there's that whole social layer thing.