Local Context is a new solution for travel related businesses that has been created by Google Maps. It enables you to embed a curated Google Map on your site that allows you to integrate local information for the user to explore the local area without having to leave your site.
Providing Local Information to Users
Local information is relevant to many different industries, but it’s especially relevant to travel and real estate where it helps people make decisions about where to visit or stay, where to shop and explore or what houses to tour and more. Key trends happening in travel and real estate that are making local information more important than ever. Prior to Covid-19, two consumer trends were emerging in the travel industry. One, travellers wanting to be efficient with their time and two, using technology to aid in their travel planning. According to booking.com over half of global travellers said that in 2020, they wanted to travel to a place that had all of their favourite activities close together to save travel time.
Also 46% of global travellers plan to use the app to help them explore in real time while traveling and 44% plan to use an app for planning trips. While Covid-19 has certainly impacted many people’s travel plans, we expect that once travels return to normal, these will be less in consumer behaviours. In the real estate industry, the majority of home buyers search and research homes online. According to the National Association of Realtors, 93% of home buyers go online to research homes and 73%, use a mobile device or a tablet for that. We also know that local surroundings influence the neighbourhood choice. 30% of buyers rate convenience to shopping and 20% of buyers convenience to entertainment as factors for choosing a neighbourhood to live.
And users consider interactive local information very useful. Among home buyers who go online to research home, 40% of those buyers rate websites with neighbourhood information very useful and 37%, do the same for websites with interactive maps. As you can see, local information matters more than ever to the travel and real estate industries. It’s essential to a better user experience and to help users make quicker, more confident decisions. That said, there are some problems in the current user experience that if solved would make it even better. Today, for users to answer questions like, are there any good restaurants and shopping around this hotel or home, they often experience what we call the tale of two windows.
Providing the Information in One Place
Typically one window is for your site and the other window is consumer Google Maps. This means your users look at a property on your site then open Google Maps on another window or on their phone to look up more detailed information about the point of interest around the property, et cetera. Imagine your users switching back and forth between your site and Google Maps to explore different POIs in more details. That’s not very efficient. This means your user is spending way more time than you would like in order to reach a final decision about whether to book your hotel or contacting agents to see your house.
Plus, every time your user leaves your site to go to that other window or app, there is a risk they won’t come back and that could mean they never complete the transaction on your site. Both of these factors can ultimately lead to lower conversion rates. Today, you can already solve this problem. Places API, a Google Maps Platform product has local search and place data that allow you to integrate local information, show the Google Map on your site. Building a solution yourself provides you with complete control to customize your local experience any way you want.
Introducing Local Context
Local Context brings together the best of maps, routes and places into a single turnkey experience. It offers integrated interaction with our reached places data to keep users engaged on your site, where they build understanding of the places in the area, including user ratings, reviews, photos, pricing, ETA to get there and walking directions, all of that in a single package.
You can give your users the confidence to make quick decisions about which hotel to book or what to do on the trip or which home to buy or rent with Google local content that they already trust integrated right into your map. No more tale of two windows.
With Local Context your location or multi locations are controlled by you and the POIs are provided by Local Context. And they can coexist on the same map. The map styling matches the sites brand as the map supports the same style and functionality of a regular dynamic map. All the styling you’ve done before can be used on a Local Context map. The user can then use Local Context to help them pick the best property by using the context around the various locations in checking, which POIs they would like to stay closer to.
Users might be interested in different tourist attractions near the property, they can click and view details of the attraction. They might be interested in this specific restaurant and you can basically flip through those POIs to see which ones you’re interested in. Users can check the distance between the location in that specific POI, it will show walking directions as well as the amount of time it takes to get there. So that helps you figure out if I’m interested in this specific restaurant, it takes me 30 minutes from hotel.
The Local Context map can live along with a list view, which is below here. So your site may have at list view as well. So your user can actually check information about your properties and what they are already used to and just look at a list, or in a map, get full context of what’s around those properties and make a faster decision based on that. So since I prefer to be on the heart of it all, I would just pick the most central hotel.
Check out Local Context – Here
Local Context and API
It’s important to realize that in these experience that are many API calls being made to do the search for POIs then pull the place details and photos for each of them, as well as the routing when we want to know how far a place is and how to get there from the hotel. This would normally require pretty complex code. It could have not only a high cost, but also an unpredictable one, depending on each user’s level of interaction.
Local Context addresses that by being priced per Local Context load. This means that once you call Local Context and load this map here, that entire experience is charged only once, regardless of how many POIs your user clicks on. If I click on three POIs, five POIs, 10 POIs, the cost of Local Context for this user interaction is the same.
Benefits of Local Context
Local Context provides content and experience your users already know and trust, which is the Google Maps experience. It provides your users with rich Google local content and the familiar Google Maps experience used monthly by over one billion users globally. The local content is available worldwide with comprehensive POI information for over 100 million places around the world. The data is updated over 25 million times a day so that you can count on accurate, relevant point of interest data.
With Local Context, your users no longer need to leave your site and open up another tab or window to learn more about the area around the property. By providing rich Local Context right on your site, you can provide a better user experience, lower the risk that a customer leaves your site and doesn’t come back. Local Context is easy to implement by design and can be fully integrated into your site in a matter of days with just a few lines of code. Let’s compare these two blocks of code and you will see how simple Local Context is to implement. What would usually take hundreds of lines of code, after you load the map in order to implement the local information layer with POIs and their information, along with the user experience itself, that’s that comment line on the first block, now takes only configuration options at the same time you load them up.
The user experience and the user interaction is built in to your Local Context and no additional coding is required once you load that later. And as a pre-packaged solution, there are virtually no development or maintenance costs. Local Context is priced per load so that it provides you better and more predictable costs. Once you load a Local Context layer, you’ll pay one price for it and that includes all of the user interactions with our rich places data in that layer. And as it’s aligned with the way you measure success with metrics like number of visitors or number of user sessions, it allows you to better incorporate Local Context into your planning.
Many Thanks to Yan Gilbert for notifying me of this Beta launch.