Google Maps has remained the go-to tool for navigation, primarily used to maximize commuting options, but underwhelming users with a lack of offerings enabling digital discovery of new, unique places and experiences.
Blinded by the Google monopoly, consumers might not be aware of the plethora of mapping tools and applications that allow for a diverse set of uses beyond just getting from point A to B. Understanding how Google Maps can be improved for everyday users, and the mapping tools and applications that are going above and beyond to enhance discovery and IRL experiences, will give consumers an indication of how Google misses the mark with mapping. From community engagement features to trend tracking to hiking trail navigation, Google Maps could stand to take notes from other mapping players in the ecosystem.
Google Maps might let you leave reviews and ratings, but it offers no forum for engaging with specifically like-minded users with similar interests or deep-diving into a discussion about a unique location or experience. By leaving consumers at the whims of random reviewers to get answers and insights prior to their own exploration of a point of interest, the app misses an opportunity to foster engaged map-based communities, built around shared or niche interests. Google should look to tools like Reddit, which encourage longer forms of discussion and open the door to community engagement around specific interests or locations, to give consumers the benefits of community engagement and input that they may be missing out on.
Everyone is eager to visit the latest hot spot, but Google Maps doesn’t allow for discovery based on what’s trending. When trying to find the most buzz-worthy restaurants, bars, or experiences in a given area, Google Map users must look to other sources to uncover the places that are currently the most talked about or viewed. With platforms like FourSquare, those top spots are accessible at the click of a button, showcasing the trending places in a given city. By leveraging real data from their own users, this capability reveals the most frequently searched and visited places from within the application that week.
Many of us already closely follow our favorite influencers, taking delight in posts on their favorite recommendations, from the bakery with the most chocolate loaded croissant to the bar with the best spicy cocktails. But most people like their posts and move on, not taking the effort to exit the social media app and open up Google Maps to pin the places they recommend. Alternatively, apps like Atly offer the ability to follow your favorite influencers geographically, collecting all their favorite spots in one unified, specific map shared with their followers and other like-minded users.
Many people still take their phones along with them to the great outdoors to capture the perfect picture from the peak of a mountain or to help navigate along a trail. But Google Maps is more focused on urban settings, and while the service often shows trailheads and nature reserves, its remote capabilities lack the ability to truly help users navigate the trail. AllTrails is one app helping hikers find the right path even without cell service, while also offering plenty of hike recommendations and the ability to find the perfect hike by distance, topography, and difficulty, depending on your needs.
Ready to Run
While runners and walkers may consult Google Maps ahead of hitting the pavement, some critical functions that many exercisers value – tracking steps, pace, or even routing your paths – are not supported on the platform. Instead, apps like the Nike Run Club can not only track your pace, heart rate and cadence, but provide detailed running maps that users can create and share, as well as a fully-fledged running community to enhance and encourage people on their exercise journeys.