What Is "Google Offers"?

On Friday Mobile Marketer published an article, based on a talk given by Google's Mike Steib in New York. The article appeared to "announce" a new Google couponing effort called "Google Offers":

“The Holy Grail for local advertising is location-targeted coupons, and we’re building Google Offers to enable that, as well as click-to-call functionality for nearby businesses,” Mr. Steib said. “If you have the ability to reach out to consumers nearby and pull them in using mobile, it’s great for consumers and advertisers.”

I had an opportunity to talk to Google on Friday (though not Steib) about this, as well as its $1 billion in mobile ad revenues and other subjects of interest. Most of the conversation was off the record. However my conclusion is that "Google Offers" is much more of an idea than a product at this point. What the talk in New York really means is that Google sees locally oriented advertising on mobile devices, driving calls and foot traffic into stores, as very powerful and desirable both for consumers and merchants.

Part of that calculus is coupons, which more than any other advertising vehicle have a direct impact on consumer purchase behavior. Currently SMBs and others with Places pages on Google can offer coupons. However Google needs to do a better job of surfacing those coupons in order to gain consumer notice and further merchant adoption. Somewhat more visible are Google "Tags," which can also be coupons.

There's also the broader question of how deeply Google wants to get into coupons. Does the company, for example, want to integrate them into Google Shopping/Product Search or limit them to service businesses exposed via Local/Maps? Would Google create a "coupon destination," as others have done, including Yahoo and Ask?

I'm sure that Google has looked carefully at the "daily deals" segment as well. But so far the company has declined to either buy a company or mimic the offering. However it did recently invest in a company called Signpost, which is in the same general space. 

It's clear that Google does want to get more deeply into local deals and coupons and is trying to figure out what's the best, most scalable way to do that. It also appears there's no new product (ad) announcement coming in the immediate future.