The Next Phase for Waze: Growing SMB Advertisers

Waze, the crowd-sourced, mobile navigation application currently owned by Google, monetized in 2012 with in-map advertisements. The company was able to pull in national advertisers like Dunkin’ Donuts, Chick-fil-A, Panera Bread and others with almost no promotional efforts.

The ability to attract such major advertiser interest with little effort is a testament to the app’s large user base of more than 65 million monthly active users globally in 185 countries. Moving beyond the large, multi-location brands, the company is developing a strategy to attract more small business advertisers.

To help aid in these efforts of reaching more SMBs, Waze recently joined LSA. I got a chance to speak with Sara Hall, industry veteran and commercialization lead at Waze, to talk about how exactly the company plans to do this.

Part of the company’s strategy to attract SMB advertisers is to expose ad performance data and research derived from advertisers on the platform. According to Hall, over the last few years the company has conducted over 1000 studies worldwide, exploring how people exposed to ads in the platform compare to control groups.


The research has uncovered some interesting insight as it relates to the behavior of drivers over time. According to a “Navigation Lift Study,” users were more likely to search for and navigate to an advertised business following ad exposure. As seen above, the average navigation lift for an ad exposed group was +53%, but results ranged between +7% and +119%.

“Our navigation lift studies look at the full picture of driver behavior for those exposed to ads on Waze by also examining the lift in organic visits to locations after seeing an ad,” said Hall. “By seeing a consistent positive lift, we have proven that ads can influence driver behavior over time, not just in the moment the ad is served”.

Another component of the SMB strategy is an improved self-serve platform that has been redesigned specifically for SMBs. SMB advertisers simply provide a credit card and get a promoted pin, paying only for impressions that are served to people on a route that travels nearby the advertiser’s storefront.

Hall also discussed an increased investment in customer service for advertisers on the platform and the company’s new “head of global SMB” position dedicated to the development of SMB business.

Waze works differently depending on business category and business goals. For example, with high consideration brands, Waze acts as an awareness vehicle, similar to a billboard. For lower consideration brands that integrate well with the daily commute (coffee, grocery, gas) the strongest KPIs are performance based (navigations).

The platform has seen success with a diversified range of advertisers big and small. As mentioned above, coffee, groceries and gas all integrate well with the daily commute. However, everything from local restaurants to nationally recognized convenience store brands are also seeing strong performance on the platform.

What makes Waze unique is that ads on the platform are delivered to people who are currently in-route to a destination. The desired action from the ads are a “navigate to.” Should a user execute the action, the likelihood of an actual visit is strong given the out and about and nearby nature of the user. This makes the Waze ad offering particularly interesting to retailers big and small.

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