Mario Romano (Waze): We have developed advertising formats allowing drivers to discover the specific store when passing nearby.

Waze is an app that helps drivers or commuters to navigate. „On top of these, Waze also developed an advertising platform with the intent not only to support customers but also businesses which have physical stores and wanted to showcase the presence of the stores on the map and make up to influence the purchasing behavior of users on ways to visit the stores, to grow services in the long term. Now we have developed advertising formats that allow to discover the specific store or, for example, to see a logo of the specific store when you pass nearby,“ says Mario Romano, account manager in Waze in the Adastra podcast.

  • Can data about the people mobility help with the heavy traffic in the cities?
  • Hoď can cities use data about road accidents real time?
  • What are business advantages of the new Waze’s platform that allow users to discover the specific store on the map when they pass nearby?
  • How can the more effective mobility or less time spent in traffic jams reduce the CO2 production?

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Read the podcast as an interview

Ivana Karhanová: 1.3 million of monthly active users in the year 2022. 9 hours spent every month on this app. 385 kilometres navigated monthly. This is Waze and his account manager for this region, Mario Romano, is a guest in this episode. Hi, Mario. Welcome.

Mario Romano: I wanna thank you very much and thank you for the invitation.

Ivana Karhanová: Base is an app that helps me to get to the desired place. Do you think your data about the people mobility can help with the heavy traffic in the cities? This might be the time spent in traffic jams.

Mario Romano: Yeah, that’s a very good question. You’re going straight to the point of what makes Waze so special and so different from other navigation platforms. So what we are seeing based on our data is that the number of cars is growing every year.

This is, of course causing more congestion, more traffic, more pollution. And we are really seeing that there are mobility inefficiencies, especially in big cities. In fact, people might think that you tend to use a navigation software only when you want to take a long route on holiday and go to a destination you don’t know.

But in fact, in reality, what we see is that our audience is made up of commuters that every single day go to their office and they perfectly know what the road to get to their office. But they’re interested in knowing what’s the fastest route today in that given specific moment, considering the real time traffic condition. And that’s exactly what Waze aims to do. Aims to save 5 minutes of your day.

That’s our claim every single day by helping you finding the fastest route and therefore be more efficient in your everyday mobility.

Ivana Karhanová: Do you think the more effective mobility or less time spent in traffic jams can reduce the CO2 production as well? Because ESG is now the hot topic.

Mario Romano: Absolutely. So of course, like lower time of time spent in car means also less pollution, means less consumption, not only in terms of pollution for the environment, but also for our personal investment. Because, of course, an auto is a cost, the car is a cost for fuel. So it impacts several aspects of it and of of sustainability in my opinion.

Ivana Karhanová: As we take a look on device as a technology platform, what are now the main challenges? The data or how to process the data or maybe the AI algorithms because the the platform becomes more and more robust?

Mario Romano: Yeah, so this is a very good question, very relevant for Waze because Waze has a peculiarity. Something that makes Waze unique is that it is a technology which is a global technology which leverages, of course, global data machine learning, but also it mixes it with local inputs. So we have a global technology, it’s reachable everywhere.

We use global maps, but then it goes down to single people’s feedbacks about real time traffic conditions, about potholes, about road constructions, about events, anything that can impact mobility to feed this platform with the right data.

So what we see as a big advantage and the big opportunity also looking into the future is the access they have to this data. Thanks to our community of users, we can say that Waze would really not be as successful as it is now without this community of users. It was built out of the data provided to community users.

The more we grow our community of users and the more these users use the app, the more data we have and the more reliable it becomes. So we can say there will be sort of a net there is already and there will be even more a network effect in the future as the usage of this app grows over time.

Ivana Karhanová: So the technology platform is in real dependent on our behavior, our ability to cooperate as a people, as a drivers.

Mario Romano: Exactly. So it all goes down to the community. It goes out to the community in cities and in countries where there is a high usage of the platform.

We have even better reliability in terms of information because we have more real time data that reflects what the current situation in that specific moment, in that specific route. And that’s the big advantage of Waze. And what makes Waze unique.

Ivana Karhanová: To cooperate with other cities, with politicians, with the political representation of the regions, to maybe provide them with interesting data to let them know. What to do next in the politics and the politic view?

Mario Romano: Absolutely. Yes. So I mentioned so far the community as our huge partner in helping solve these global mobility problems and efficiencies. But they are not our only partners.

We are also partners with local authorities in every single country it operates in. And when I say the authorities, I mean, for example, national road authorities or, for example, cities, governments with the idea to exchange data in a way that it benefits both of us.

Let me give you a very concrete example. Waze provides data to cities about real time traffic conditions, but also all historical traffic conditions that can be very useful for these authorities, for example, for urban planning. On the other way around the cities provide Waze with data about, let’s say, pre-planned road closures or on Sunday there is a marathon or a cycling competition. Anything that can impact mobility for, let’s say, 3 hours in the morning on a given day.

They provide us these data in advance. We feed it into the platform and then our users will know it real time as soon as this impacts mobility. So, yes, there is a very strong cooperation and we strongly believe in this cooperation also looking into the future.

Ivana Karhanová: What is the further development or maybe the future vision? How can app as Waze´s navigation indeed can go?

Mario Romano: I think it goes back to this same topic we were discussing now. So, Waze is now seen as like a navigation software, right? Something where you put the destination and you navigate to.

But actually it is more than that and it will be more than that in the future. Like we see ways really as a mobility, as a service platform where we can really cooperate, for example, with cities, with governments, with users to really be more efficient and make mobility more efficient for everyone.

Let me give you an example of how Waze can help cities become more smart as smart cities is a big topic, right? So, for example, we provide data about accidents, road accidents, real time to the cities and cities which have cameras placed around the top road crossings can actually get an alert.

If there is a feedback about an accident at a specific crossing, activate the camera and check what’s happening and which type of service to deploy, where there may be police or maybe an ambulance based on what’s the situation. And it’s thanks to the interaction of Waze with, for example, governmental data.

Now, does that seem how can I say something ambitious, futuristic? Well, let me tell you that this is already existing. We are piloting this, for example, in the city of Amsterdam, in the Netherlands, or the city of Lisbon in Portugal. And this is telling you that the smart cities are already here.

We are actually working towards being a top contributor and partner of cities, towards becoming smarter, of course, with in the area of mobility.

Ivana Karhanová: The EU provides data to local governments for free. And how willing are they to cooperate with you if there are any country differences, perhaps?

Mario Romano: Yes, like the the data exchange is for free, it’s for mutual benefit. So we provide access to our traffic data and in exchange we get this data. So it’s a win-win situation. That’s why we provide it for free.

And we have partners across all our 180 plus counties where we are active in, just to mention, for example, Czech Republic, where we partner with the road authority of Czech Republic, we partnered with the city of Brno, etc. So it really goes down so granular to specific cities or authorities. But we have partners everywhere in the world.

Ivana Karhanová: You also see Waze as a new opportunity to enhance the company’s communication mix. It’s our second topic for today’s podcast.

Anyway, maybe it would be fine if you could explain that, because if I see an navigation, I would guess that I should watch the road instead of watching my phone.

Mario Romano: That’s absolutely a fair question. So, let’s deep dive in the role of Waze as potential communication platforms. So far, we have explored how Waze is a business to consumer app that helps a user who wants to navigate.

On top of these, Waze also developed an advertising platform with the intent not only to support customers, but also to support businesses which have stores, physical stores, and wanted to showcase the presence of the stores on the map and make up to influence the purchasing behavior of users on ways to visit the stores, to grow services in the long term.

Now we have developed advertising formats that allow to discover the specific store or, for example, to see a logo of the specific store when you pass nearby. Of course, with the intent not to disturb the drive but to provide a service. Really here the concept is that advertisement is very localized and very contextual.

It appears when a user either passes nearby a store or is proactively searching for it, and when someone searches for a store for the destination by definition is stopped with a car store still in the planning phase, therefore not disturbing drive.

And we are seeing very positive results in the capacity of this advertisement, not only to help businesses to grow but also to be seen really as a service. Here is really advertisement as a service, users go to ways to get information, to find also where the closest supermarket is, if they’re hungry, where they can find the burger, or where is the cheapest coffee or the cheapest fuel that specific day given, given the company’s priorities.

So really we aim to touch upon several aspects from the business to consumer, from to the business to business side.

Ivana Karhanová: So you should be the growing competition to Google Maps.

Mario Romano: In a certain sense yes. Of course, Google is providing similar type of service, but I would not call it necessarily a perfect competitor as the philosophy and also the use of Google Maps is slightly different.

The first most clear difference is that Waze is solely targeting drivers, is specifically created for drivers. While Google Maps has a different type of audience, you can also go by public transportation. So it’s slightly different mean slightly different type of users, different types of interaction and engagement.

So definitely both are navigation softwares, but target different type of users with slightly different types of users as well.

Ivana Karhanová: If I understood well the presentation you prepared for Innovation Week held in Prague in October this year, you should provide the advertisers the data about customers behaviors or customer navigation behaviors or shopping behaviors, if I understood this right. Right?

Mario Romano: That’s correct. So we provide a wide array of KPIs for advertisers ranging from the most common digital KPIs like impressions or reach, how many people did we reach with what frequency down to the most way specific ones which are navigation KPIs.

So what we can tell you is how many users tops on any of the ad formats in our ecosystem. And thanks to the top to being exposed to these advertisements they navigated to your stores. And on top of this, we can also tell you what was the ability of ways to bring incremental navigations.

So was your investment profitable? Were you able to bring in customers that otherwise wouldn’t have navigated to your store? If yes, how many? And then quantify the return on your investment in this platform.

Ivana Karhanová: How do users react for the ads in the maps? I mean the driver.

Mario Romano: The perception of the ad goes back again to the point I was mentioning before. Like Waze is really perceived as an app, a mobility as a service app. So as long as we provide advertisement, that is very contextual.

So I’m going to target you with an offer of a burger which is a kilometre from you. And as long as we provide you a given supermarket brand with a given weekly relevant offer when you’re looking for a supermarket specifically in search, this is perceived as a service, as an added value.

So that’s our goal to stay relevant and provide a targeted contextual advertisement that can be perceived as a service and as an added value in the long term.

Ivana Karhanová: Provide also the advertisers with data, maybe about a competition? Can I see if the customers go primarily to my competitor, to my neighborhood, or to me?

Mario Romano: Yes, absolutely. So we can map the overall amount of medications in a given category. Let me give you a very specific example to the supermarket category.

Then we can tell you out of 100 navigations going to supermarkets within the Waze app, how many are going to brand a how many are going to brand and how many are going to all the competitors. This is something we call Waze navigation, share analysis.

And the objective we want to achieve by providing this type of analysis is to see whether by activating a campaign on Waze and B2B marketing advertising campaign is the given advertiser able to steel somehow navigation market share from competition therefore gaining incremental navigation to their stores that brand.

Ivana Karhanová: Because of the Week of Innovation was primarily about innovation, where do you see the largest potential innovation of navigation applications for the next few years?

Mario Romano: I see the largest opportunity again, back to the previous point in being a mobility as a service app, not only in navigation which has been used in the past, for example, to signal earthquakes, hurricanes that maybe flood the road and you are not able to move that way anymore, or if there is a petrol shortage, as there has been, for example, in England last year, signalling which are the gas station where this is not available anymore.

Or for example, to give another concrete example, in Italy there was a catastrophe when an important bridge on the highway collapsed. Within a few minutes that road was closed and people were redirected thanks to Waze to other directions, so really being a companion and partner at 360 degrees.

Not only in telling you where to go, but helping you really in mobility, partnering with cities, helping them also saving lives by, for example, getting faster to the location of an accident with ambulance, thanks to inputs of Waze or solving issues real time on the road where there is a pothole, so that maybe an accident is prevented because a user signal that there is a pothole on the road.

So really a mobility at the service of a campaigning 360 degree, the mobility experiences of our users.

Ivana Karhanová: OK. That´s the great vision which we can maybe close this topic about the future of device of navigation up. So this was the Mario Romano, the account manager for our region. Thank you for hosting or to be guest of this podcast today. Thank you. Sometimes maybe hear back.

Mario Romano: Thank you very much again for the invitation.