Google has never been lacking in confidence – and that’s not just because it has a market cap of $487 billion and last year took in $74.5 billion in revenues.
There have been some high-profile and somewhat embarrassing disappointments on the product front, such as real-time messaging platform Wave, social network Google Plus, and the nerdy Google Glass. But Google – or Alphabet, as the umbrella company is now known as – and its power doesn’t ever seem to diminish.
Part of the reason for this is that it commands an enormous influence over the daily lives of hundreds of millions of people, primarily through its search tools, email service, YouTube and Android-hosted mobile phones.
The company’s influence over (it would probably say “partnership with”) the travel industry is not a new story – with it happily taking billions of marketing dollars every year from travel brands in the form of keyword buying and video and display advertising.
But, until now, even following the launches of Flight Search, Hotel Finder, Hotel Ads et al, there are many in the industry who think that Google’s hold over the industry from an actual product perspective has been somewhat lacklustre so far.
Even those that criticise the fact that Google is said to be biting the hand that feeds it, by building competitive products, are not showing any significant degree of anger beyond just moaning about it, let’s face it.
Going back a few years, even when the aforementioned Flight Search first took off and Hotel Finder first appeared, Google’s appearances at events often triggered a lean towards the (paraphrased) “oh well, is that really it?”.
This isn’t to say the products were poorly executed (although some will certainly say so) or had little impact (again, some will say so), but many could be forgiven for wondering what is the killer product that the travel industry should fear – the one that triggers the Eureka Moment.
Indeed, it never particularly felt, after observing many Google execs at travel conferences and speaking privately with them over the years, that the Eureka Moment had hit the company either.
But there is a turning of the tide, and it’s happening right now… finally.
Oliver Heckmann, Google’s vice president for travel and shopping, spoke at the Phocuswright Europe Conference in Dublin, Ireland, last week.