Google Quietly Launches Groupon Now-Like Free Google Offers Across The U.S.

Google today announced its latest update for Google Maps for Android with support for Google Offers. One interesting piece of this announcement that stood out was that Google Maps for Android users now get access to free Google Offers like a free coffee or dessert. Turns out, that’s actually just a small part of a wider update to Google Offers. Merchants across the U.S. – including towns where Google’s pre-paid offers haven’t launched yet – can now use a new self-service interface to create these free offers.

We talked to Google Offers’ director of product management Eric Rosenblum about these changes earlier today. According to Rosenblum, there are three major pieces to today’s announcement: a new way for users to use Offers, a new way for merchants to use it, and expanded distribution of offers through Maps for Android.

Until now, Google and most of its competitors in this market have focused on pre-paid offers. With this new free offering, Google wants to give merchants more opportunities to get new customers to their stores. Store owners can use a new self-service interface to set specific times for when and how long an offer should be valid. This new interface also gives merchants access to stock photography and other tools to fine-tune their messages. The coupons can be for money off, a percentage discount or a free product or gift.

This is pretty similar to what Groupon is doing with Groupon Now, the difference being that this is for free coupons and not for pre-paid offers. As Rosenblum put it, this is basically a way to give shoppers “a gentle nudge” to come and try out a new store, coffee shop or restaurant.

For potential customers, this means that they can now use the Google Maps for Android app (no word on whether this feature will come to other platforms anytime soon) to find these new offers and save them. For users who opt in to this, the app will also alert them whenever there’s a nearby offer.