Mapping Apps Making an Impact on Mobile Purchase Intent

Share this:

pinsMobile users’ needs are increasingly local, and nothing is more local than the mobile applications that allow us to navigate to our daily points of interest. Today, 68% of smartphone use takes place outside the home, fueling the regular accessing of map and navigation apps.

Nielsen reports that more than one-half of U.S. smartphone users download and access map and navigation apps. These popular properties serve as a one-stop local shop and are obvious must-haves for mobile users on the go. But they also let advertisers of all sizes spread awareness about their businesses, while potentially driving increased in-store sales. In fact, 84% of mobile users look for a business address over a phone number; this could suggest that when people access navigation apps, they might possess a strong intent to visit businesses and conduct transactions.

So how are advertisers leveraging map and navigation apps to drive conversion to sales? And which properties stand out from the crowd?

Most map and navigation applications have both paid search and display advertising options. Both options can be extremely valuable for marketers in steering customers toward this type of engagement. But two apps in particular have taken their ad platform beyond standard search and display advertising, differentiating themselves from the crowded mapping marketplace by offering unique and customizable opportunities to reach and engage local consumers.

Mapquest: The Old-New Standby
Mapquest came into prominence as a desktop navigation property that became synonymous with trip planning. And while the desktop site has retained its popularity, the user base for Mapquest’s mobile properties increased 35% in 2012. This may have resulted in part from Mapquest’s mobile app redesign and repackaging last year to enhance the handheld navigation experience. The app now includes a crazy quick, visual method for searching for specific businesses in one’s immediate vicinity that has brought onboard brands like Choice Hotels and Best Western as advertisers. These national brands have sponsored exclusive one-touch search functionality that allows for the pinpointing of any of their locations within a user’s vicinity right from the app’s home screen. Meanwhile, within a mapped journey, Mapquest’s Search-Along-Route technology continues to reveal advertiser locations along a drive.

For local brand visibility, the home screen features various search categories from “coffee” to “gas” that, with one click, can reveal all locations fitting a given category within the immediate vicinity. These updated, conversion-centric updates to the Mapquest platform are paying off for users and advertisers alike. On the xAd network alone, according to January data, Mapquest ads averaged an above 90% secondary-action rate, demonstrating high user engagement and even greater intent to visit and transact.

Waze and Means
Also making a splash and shaking things up in the map and navigation marketplace is Waze. This socially driven navigation app has already taken second place among map and navigation apps in the iTunes store. Waze users act as mobile eyes and ears on the ground, sending reports about traffic, weather conditions, or gas prices they have spotted during their journey, for the benefit of the collective user base. This tool is great for everything from a road trip to barhopping on a Friday night, and it’s all offered in a slickly designed visual package.

But beyond its hip design, Waze has proved a valuable tool for mobile marketers seeking to reach local audiences. As of November the company had a user base of more than 30 million, with users spending an average of 440 minutes a month with the app among 11 different mapped journeys. Insights from a recent poll found that 20% of Waze users search for restaurants, 10% for coffee shops, and more than 50% make pit stops along their navigated route for activities like running errands and shopping — proof of the opportunity advertisers have to affect consumer purchase decisions throughout a guided journey.

Brands like Dunkin’ Donuts have found value in a partnership with Waze that is driving mobile users to brick-and-mortar locations nationwide, thanks to custom elements like branded markers and location pages. These advertising options capitalize on Waze’s knowledge of a mobile user’s journey so as to serve relevant, location-specific advertising along the route. Not only are Waze ads local, but custom-branded elements also act as a mobile invitation to users to stop and visit a business, fueling the mobile path to purchase.

But no matter which mobile map and navigation property an individual user prefers, the message is clear: Mobile users have adopted these properties as part of their daily lives. Apps like Mapquest and Waze are tapped with a direct intention as part of “lower funnel” purchase considerations. But map and navigation users also demonstrate high engagement with visible advertisers served to them as a complement to their core navigation needs.

Therefore brands and businesses at the local and national levels should take notice and start leveraging location and the power of map and navigation apps as a way to better reach and engage local audiences. The benefits are twofold: greater ROI for businesses and a locally optimized experience for a growing base of mobile consumers.

Annisa Farese is marketing and communications manager for xAd Inc., which leverages local search data to drive performance in search and display campaigns for clients that range from local SMBs to global brands. To learn more about xAd, visit or follow the company on Twitter at @xAdInc.