Waze: Transforming Navigation

The 21st century has seen the near disappearance of traditional maps. The booming age of technology brought about GPS systems, which changed travel forever. Companies like Garmin and TomTom dominated the market in the early 2000s. These systems, however, have faltered due to the introduction of GPS into smartphones. Why buy a Garmin when your iPhone has built in map systems and millions of applications at your disposal. Waze, a community based traffic and navigation app, was founded in 2007, and has capitalized on this new age of navigation and mobile apps. Constructed with a straightforward business plan, its success was enough to attract a $1.3 billion buyout from Google in 2013.

Waze has become the most popular community based navigation application because of its social media aspect. In the new sharing economy where social media is paramount, there is a high premium on group connection. Waze brilliantly incorporates this aspect as its whole model relies on users sharing and providing information for other users. The interactive component of the app engages the users while they are driving and allows for up to date and accurate data. This naturally incentivizes others to download and utilize Waze. The app rewards users by participating; a simple but smart idea that has lead to its high download rates.

Here is how the application works; it crowd sources its information from the users, which allows for the most up to date information. The software then automatically factors these updates into its directional advice. Waze gives its users the fastest route available, which is highly appreciated in this day and age.

Apart from providing the most up to date travel information, Waze owes much of its accomplishments to its social media component. The app uniquely connects everyone on the road into one mobile application platform. It is simple yet powerful. When people know that they are contributing to others experience and that others are contributing to theirs, they feel empowered. There are no limitations on this applications’ value, as it becomes more useful with more suppliers. Waze has helped users in disastrous situations like Hurricane Sandy, when Waze was able to alert survivors of open gas stations. This further demonstrates the potential of Waze’s concept.

Waze, while unprofitable for its first few years of existence, has since adopted a location based advertising platform. According to CEO Noam Bardin, within the mobile app’s first years, the key is to expand the user base and prove the concept. Waze successfully implemented that strategy and now is able to profit. The location based advertising platform means that Waze promotes businesses on the app that are within a certain proximity to the user. Waze can recommend gas stations, restaurants and even hotels as the user drives by them. Advertisers and businesses see this is a very economical way to invest their money. With over 50 million users, advertisers can be confident in knowing that their businesses will be promoted. Additionally, Waze does not use banners on their mobile app, which is a huge draw for advertisers. Banners are burdensome for users, and Waze skillfully integrates advertising so that the user is not distracted. While the revenues from advertisements are not high, they will continue to grow as Waze gains more popularity. The genius behind Waze is the technology and the idea, which is something Google obviously values as they spent over $1 billion to acquire the company.

Waze has recently improved the integration of advertisements. Now, businesses such as restaurants and coffee shops pop up at the top of the screen and give the time to that destination as well as an easy reroute option to give directions to the new destination. Waze also now allows for unique ad targeting based on driving conditions such as weather, type of destination or weather. For example, if Waze knows you are headed to beach in a warm climate, it might advertise ice cream shops. Waze has a successful advertising model, however the company must continue to show potential advertisers that Waze will assist their businesses. It can do test studies to see how much more likely Waze users are to frequent a business that is advertised on the app. Additionally, Waze could create a new component to the app to increase advertisements. The idea is that before the course is given, a list of businesses, within a mile of any point of the route, are presented so that the user can select one before he or she even begins the drive. This way, the user isn’t alerted of advertisements just minutes before passing by. This is an easy function to include in the app that would make advertising on Waze more attractive.

Waze is just one of the latest examples of a social media application to gain recognition on a national stage. In the current digital age, innovative companies have the potential to succeed at high levels. Waze is poised to maintain its level of success in the foreseeable future if it sticks to its core ideas of simplicity, efficiency and customer satisfaction.