Google & Facebook move to shorten the distance between discovery and booking

Google Bucket lists and Facebook City Guides are trip planning tools that could also be useful travel brands. Andrew Hennigan reports

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We’ve probably all shared our bucket list ideas through Facebook or email, but mostly in a haphazard way and, ironically, these often remain as firmly on the to-do list as many of the trips themselves.

Now Google Maps' users can build bucket lists of places they’ve visited or plan to visit and share these lists with friends. Users benefit by learning about interesting new destinations from each other and Google benefits – as always – by gathering more data about our preferences. This is further proof of Google's self-confessed move up the trip-planning funnel which has strategic implications for the travel industry, something we will be looking more closely at later this week on and at this year's upcoming events

Google is claiming that the biggest winners will be travel brands, which can use the new bucket list features as part of an advocacy campaign to attract new business. What they have done is make it really easy. Users don’t need to download a new app to use it; instead it simply adds new functions to the popular Google Maps app that most travellers already use.

How it works

Zach Maier, Google’s manager for the Google Maps product, says getting started is easy. All the user has to do, he says, is open the Google Maps app, find the location that they want to share, tap on the place name and then save it. This adds the location to one of the standard categories like ‘Want to go’ or ‘Favourites’ but you can also create new lists to separate, for example, restaurants from the best museums.

Lists created like this can be shared using email, social networks and popular messenger apps. Tapping the ‘share’ button creates a link that can be sent to anyone. All they have to do is to tap ‘follow’ to see your list on their map. Bucket List works in the same way across all versions of Google Maps, including offline. Maps downloaded in advance of a visit include the bucket list places, and whenever a user opens Google Maps at any location they see all the nearby points of interest from the lists that they follow.

Brand benefits

In the most simple terms, travel brands can share their own bucket list, but where it becomes most useful is for advocacy marketing. This is when consumers start to recommend their favourite places to other consumers in their circles.

But that isn’t all. “For lists that have been made public it could also help brands to see who is featuring them in a destination list,” explains Andrew Seel, CEO of Qube Media.

As an example, it might allow them to see if a hotel group’s New York property is featured in a traveller’s ‘Best of NYC’ bucket list. If a brand is mentioned, then the company could possibly use the list as user-generated content for advocacy marketing.

…a bucket list mention is a sort of endorsement that can be used in the same way as a good review on sites like TripAdvisor

In this way, a bucket list mention is a sort of endorsement that can be used in the same way as a good review on sites like TripAdvisor; another example of how Google is moving up the trip-planning funnel.

Potentially, even more exciting for marketers is that the bucket list features a useful built in connection between Google Maps and destinations. As Seel explains: “Within the bucket list travellers will be able to call a hotel or other attraction, shortening the distance between finding, planning and booking for brands.”

Google’s new bucket list features are likely to be popular with a wide range of brands, from big chains with a well-oiled advocacy programme to the smaller boutique hotels that do not have the resources to invest in new app development. Piggybacking on the existing Google Maps app it can be an easy way into this kind of marketing.

Facebook focus

But Google isn’t the only social media giant that has its site set on the multi-billion dollar travel industry. Surprise, surprise, Facebook is currently testing a feature called City Guides that is aimed at helping users to plan trips. For now Facebook City Guides are limited to a small number of key cities, such as New York, and mostly repurpose existing content.

The trend now is clearly towards shortening the distance between discovery and booking

There are, as yet, no public plans to roll out City Guides worldwide and it seems likely that Facebook is dipping its toe in the water before posing a major threat to the countless independent travel apps out there today.  

Whatever they decide to do, the trend now is clearly towards shortening the distance between discovery and booking. And with its dominance of the social media market Facebook will be the player to watch this year.

Also this week on we’ll be looking in more depth at exactly what Facebook is up to.

To hear more about travel industry tips, tools and trends, why not join us at one of EyeforTravel’s upcoming events

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