At a Glance

What they wanted to do:

  • Build a more flexible, interactive route planning system to improve the visitor experience and cut down on IT costs

What they did:

  • Implemented Google Maps API to enhance user experience and trip planning accuracy

What they accomplished:

  • Built an interactive, scalable routing service that currently achieves four million downloads a week
  • Gained 12% growth in the number of routes downloaded, increasing the value of the website to visitors and to the business
  • Cut the time and money spent on IT support for the mapping platform

"The dramatic increase in the number of visitors to the site, the time they now spend on the site and the number of routes downloaded is a clear indication of the benefits we have seen from implementing Google Maps API for Business."

—Steve Wing, Manager of Mapping Services

About Google Maps API

Google Maps API makes it easy for companies to include fully interactive Google Maps on their public and internal websites. The Maps API helps your customers and employees make the right business and purchasing decisions by visualizing important information on a familiar map.

For more information, visit https://enterprise.google.com/maps

"We are confident Google Maps will help us take the business from strength to strength."

—Steve Wing, Manager of Mapping Services

British motoring institution offers improved online route planning service with Google Maps API

Business

The Automobile Association (The AA) is the UK’s largest breakdown organization and has been providing assistance to motorists since 1905. One of its core businesses is AA route services, which provide directions and advice to motorists on their trips. Traditionally, this involved the production of hard copies of road maps, but over the last ten years the AA has developed the web-based AA Route Planner alongside its printed road atlases. AA Route Planner is an online service providing maps and directions for motorists to locations across the UK and to a growing number of destinations in Europe.

Challenge

Although AA Route Planner is delivered as a free service online, it is an important tool for raising the profile of the AA’s other services and for generating online advertising revenues. To ensure the site’s value to the business, the AA must attract a high number of visitors at a time when the route planning marketplace is becoming increasingly competitive.

To differentiate itself from the growing number of online route planner services and the growing popularity of satellite navigation systems, the AA is constantly looking for new ways to enhance its services for website visitors. For instance, the AA has developed ‘intelligent signposting’, a feature which details road signs as drivers would see them, ensuring they remain on the right route even where signposts might otherwise be confusing. It is also expanding its Route Planner to include journeys motorists may make beyond the UK and now includes suggestions of AA-listed hotels and restaurants.

Maintaining the mapping infrastructure as well as building up the additional information layers on top became a resource-intensive process and by 2008 the AA reached a point where its existing servers could no longer cope with the vast amount of data it was creating. “Our mapping service had reached its limit,” says Steve Wing, Manager of Mapping Services. “We were used to enjoying considerable year on year growth, but our competitors were beginning to catch us up. When growth stalled in 2008, we had the choice of buying and managing another server or layering our own routing insight onto a third-party mapping platform.”

Solution

Given the time and costs involved in purchasing and maintaining additional servers, the AA decided to outsource its mapping system and began the deployment of Google Maps API, a service that lets businesses embed Google Maps in their web pages using JavaScript and create their own mapping applications. The product provided the scalability, reliability and speed needed to cope with the high traffic volumes it expected on the site, as well as providing the openness and flexibility to add new interactive features on a regular basis.

“While we did look at a number of other mapping providers, Google had already taken the mapping world by storm and we knew it would offer a familiar and easy-to-use option for our users,” says Steve. “We were able

to develop the system very quickly, and there was minimal disruption to the service during the transfer,” he adds. The AA found it simple to overlay its own data regarding hotels, restaurants and other points of interests to motorists, on top of the open API platform which Google has built for its customers.

Results

Since switching to Google Maps, the AA has noticed an increase of 12% in downloaded routes, with time spent on the site by visitors also increasing considerably. 20% of visitors stay on the routing site for five minutes or more, compared to six percent with the previous tool. 42% of visitors spend between one and four minutes on the route planner, compared to 18% previously. “The dramatic increase in the number of visitors to the site, the time they now spend on the site and the number of routes downloaded is a clear indication of the benefits we have seen from implementing Google Maps API,” Steve notes. “The fact that many visitors are familiar with Google Maps means the site is now more user-friendly and appealing, and feedback from customers has been very positive.”

As well as improving user experience and boosting the popularity and value of the website, the AA has also seen benefits from an IT management perspective. Rather than spending time and resources supporting the map hardware and software infrastructure, it can leave this to Google and focus on adding new components to the website such as o!ering information on walking and cycling routes, which is possible due to the ability to zoom in to street level using Google Maps. The AA also now offers mobile access.

“The open nature of Google Maps API means that we are able to quickly add exciting new features to our website,” explains Steve. “Having Google take care of the maps means we can focus on innovating our core routing technology and stay ahead of our competition to ensure the site remains popular and therefore valuable to the business. It’s proved a huge success so far and we are confident Google Maps will help us take the business from strength to strength.”