Google Maps and Pizza Coupons

I’m about to go get pizza for dinner and bring it in. I went to the drawer where we keep the ValPak coupons we intend to use and discovered that the local pizza place coupon had expired (10/5/06). So I went to Google Maps, plugged in the restaurant name and, viola, there was the $3 coupon I was looking for.

When I get back I’ll let you know how they reacted to the presentation of the printed coupon.

The Reaction:

When I went to pick up the pizza I presented the coupon I had mentioned over the phone. The guy at the register (a man in his late 30s or early 40s) is a member of the family that owns the place (there are two locations). He had never seen one of these Google Maps/ValPak coupons before, so he had a kind of “what’s this?” look on his face.

(Local businesses that create their own coupons through Google or a site like ZiXXo aren’t going to be similarly confused.)

I immediately pointed out the ValPak logo next to the coupon on the folded piece of paper. “ValPak has a distribution deal with Google; this is the same as the coupons you deliver in the blue envelope,” I told him. “You can go to ValPak.com or Google and get the same coupon.”

After looking at it for one or two more seconds, he seemed satisfied that I hadn’t fabricated this on my computer, but said that he had never seen this before.

The guy is there most days so it appears that nobody has given him one of these coupons before. And given that “pizza” is the archetypal local search, the fact that he’d never seen this before raises questions about whether consumers are printing and using these Google Maps coupons generally. Of course that’s extrapolating from an isolated instance and I’m sure some are — but how many and how widely?

Rather than saying something like, “Wow, here’s clear evidence that the Internet is driving more and more of my customers,” he said, “It looks like you saved $3.” That remark carried a hint of grudging acceptance, sort of like I was getting away with something. And I was in a way.

Rather than creating an incentive to buy more or to go there as opposed to some other pizza place, I was simply using the coupon to save money on a pizza I was already intending to order. This is the subtle change allowed by having coupons so persistently and easily accessible. After I’ve made my buying decision, I look for the coupon.

Another way to look at it is: I slowly become trained to look for local coupons when I’m looking for a local business and, in that context, their availability potentially does have the opportunity to sway decision making.

It wasn’t clear to me who, in the pizza guy’s mind, gets “credit” for this. I mentioned ValPak a couple of times, but the stronger brand here is probably Google. The person I dealt with at the register, though a member of the family that owns the business, pretty clearly wasn’t the decision maker regarding advertising.

It’s clear that there will be a discussion about this coupon and what it means at some point in the next couple days. It may well be that the ValPak sales rep fully informed the decision maker that Google Maps would be one of the potential places the coupons would end up, creating much broader reach. But it’s also possible he or she did not, in which case there could be a bit of a customer relations problem.

I come back to the fact that Google doesn’t market its consumer products. What if Google (or Google + ValPak) took out newspaper display ads in 20 DMAs – or wherever they have the most coupon density from the ValPak deal – and notified consumers that they could get local coupons by searching on Google Maps?

You’d probably see a ton of people doing these searches for coupons. If they had a good experience, you’d see that ignite word-of-mouth and it would work for coupon creation too. Local business owners are equally consumers and consumer marketing is an indirect from of B2B advertising when it comes to SMEs.

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13 Responses to “Google Maps and Pizza Coupons”

  1. Andy Gadiel Says:

    Can’t wait to find out!!!

  2. cohn Says:

    Google and Valpak usage aren’t one in the same.

  3. Understanding Google Maps & Yahoo Local » Will free long distance service accelerate adoption? Says:

    [...] I and others (see Bill Slawski’s posts) have lamented the step child stature of Google Maps and Google’s apparent unwillingness to push it out to the consumer. It has always seemed to be such a valuable service that was hidden away and hard to find. Greg Sterling talked of the difficulties with the Coupon feature. I have noted how hard it is for a business to find their way into the Local Business Center. The Google Maps new Click to Call feature may be the feature that signals the tipping point in its adoption. [...]

  4. Understanding Google Maps & Yahoo Local » What does a link campaign look like for Local? Says:

    [...] Lastly, it appears that Google Coupons also provide a “web page” reference that adds authority to your link. There were none in Buffalo because none of the restaurants had yet created a coupon but I have seen them on other searches. It’s a freebie, clearly improves your ranking and while I doubt that you see many redeemed (see Greg Sterlings tale) they will do little harm if you create your coupon judiciously. If it is ever redeemed you will know that either Google Maps is finally more than 1% of all Google Traffic or Google has started promoting them…both seem a ways off. [...]

  5. Understanding Google Maps & Yahoo Local Search » How many Google Coupons are there? Says:

    [...] since Google Coupons has been introduced, why has Google been so reticent to promote coupons? And how successful has Google been at gathering coupons since the programs [...]

  6. david Says:

    I am not sure Google is too good at gathering coupons, but my site is pretty good at it. Check out http://www.1pizzacoupons.com. Let me know what you think of it.

  7. Ted Says:

    Google, is promoting their universal search, so the coupons keep coming up.

  8. Google Mulling Several Ways To Integrate Ads On Maps Says:

    [...] for years but not aggressively pushed or exposed them since the early days. (Here’s my first person story about using a Pizza coupon from Google Maps in November, 2006.) More recently Google added mobile distribution (via Place Pages) to local [...]

  9. acne on forehead Says:

    Google, is promoting their universal search, so the coupons keep coming up.

  10. Google Latitude Adds Checkin Offers Nationwide | Understanding Google Maps & Local Search Says:

    [...] 2007. For a while there was appreciable annual growth in the numbers of coupons in the system. But doubts about Google’s willingness to promote coupons surfaced early. By early 2009, amidst no [...]

  11. Google Latitude Adds Checkin Offers Nationwide | iGo Mobile Marketing Says:

    [...] 2007. For a while there was appreciable annual growth in the numbers of coupons in the system. But doubts about Google’s willingness to promote coupons surfaced early. By early 2009, amidst no [...]

  12. Google Acquires Incentive Targeting For Coupon Programs | Understanding Google Places & Local Search Says:

    [...] a disdain for coupons. Their past behaviors have certainly reflected a certain schizoid, on again off again approach to [...]

  13. Google Acquires Incentive Targeting For Coupon Programs | iGo Mobile Marketing Says:

    [...] a disdain for coupons. Their past behaviors have certainly reflected a certain schizoid, on again off again approach to [...]

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